Monday, April 18, 2011


Today I did something I've been wanting to do for a long time: I signed up for a CSA! A CSA - or Community Supported Agriculture - is a healthier and more sustainable way of eating local fruits and vegetables through the growing season. Each week, you receive a box of seasonal produce from a local farm. All CSAs work a little differently; some drop off every week and others allow you to choose certain weeks through the summer/fall, some are certified organic and some require you to volunteer on their farm as part of the program. I joined Blackberry Community Farm, which is just about 80 miles away from the Twin Cities in Wheeler, Wisconsin. They've been an organic farm for 21 years and have facilitated a CSA program for the last 16 years.

Last year I looked into joining a CSA, but I worried we wouldn't be around enough to eat all the fruits and vegetables given to us each week. I also wondered about the random produce I'd receive - do I really know what to make with radishes or kohlrabe? But looking back, I think I probably spent at least $30-$50/week on organic produce from farmer's markets and at the grocery store. Plus, I think my produce purchasing went up due to the cabin and all the meal planning and cooking I did every weekend for our friends. A full share of Blackberry Community Farm costs $550/season. Andi and I decided to split our share with his sister, Lindsay. There's 18 weeks in their growing season so that's $30.50 a week ($10.19/person). I can't beat that price at the farmer's market/grocery store no matter how hard I try!

According to the farm, this is what a typical growing season looks like:

Early Season (June/July)
Lettuce, mesclun, greens, sugarsnap peas, radishes, broccoli, spinach, Swiss card, cauliflower, kohlrabi, herbs, onions, strawberries, Chinese cabbage, kale, garlic scapes and turnips

Mid-Season (July/August/September)
Onions, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, sweet corn, herbs, beans, beets, cabbage, potatoes, peppers, watermelon, muskmelon, tomatillos, eggplant, Swiss chard, greens, edamame beans, garlic and apples

Late Season (September/October)
Lettuce, greens, herbs, onions, potatoes, kale, winter squash, pumpkin, leeks, rutabaga, cabbage, garlic, carrots, kohlrabi, arugula, brussel sprouts, apples, raspberries, sunchokes and sweet potatoes

I'm hoping this adventure will force me to try different recipes and also eat within the growing season. To be the most sustainable I can be, I know I shouldn't be buying bananas or bell peppers right now because they travel such a distance to get to my plate. But there's the "I get what I want, when I want it" consumer attitude that makes it challenging to say no. Having a box of fresh, local produce waiting for me each week will force me to eat what's grown and included.

I'm still planning to grow my own potted herbs and start tomatoes and bell peppers on my back deck. I decided last year these are the few things I bought frequently and were really expensive at the grocery store almost all summer long. I can easily grow those myself to supplement what we eat.

There's also a Strawberry Festival and a Fall Festival throughout the season at the farm and all members are invited. I think that might be fun to check out one Sunday afternoon (although realizing our summer/fall will be packed with cabin time and a new baby).

Our produce pickup site is the Patagonia Store in St. Paul, just a few blocks away from our house. That's the only downside to this whole deal; it could become a costly venture if I send Andi to pickup our goodies at his favorite store. :)


  1. Very cool! I've always been intrigued by these but the variety of vegetables scares me a bit because I won't know what to do with some of it! I'm excited to hear about how it goes for you.

  2. I am anxious to hear how it goes for you : ) We were going to sign up last year but too were not sure how we would use some of the produce. We ended up just stocking up each week at the Farmer's Market and used our garden for tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I can't wait to hear the recipes you come up with!

  3. We just signed up for one too!! With me making the lil guys food, I figured it would totally be worth it! It's hard to have a garden here with all the deer out back, so I'm brainstorming that idea for next year and will just do a CSA this year!!! Keep us updated!!