My reasons for joining Farmers’ Fresh Produce fall into two categories: food and community. In this post, I’ll address the food reasons.
- You get a variety of seasonal vegetables that you might not have eaten otherwise.
I have definitely eaten more and a larger variety of produce this year thanks to my CSA bag. Field peas, kale, radishes, acorn squash, and Asian turnips are just some of the vegetables I never would have dreamed of eating or buying in the grocery store to cook.
- Local, sustainably farmed produce more nutritious (?)
The research is hard to sift through. Some studies say yes, some say no, and no one who could be considered an uninterested party is asking the question. But the freshness of CSA produce seems important. When you buy at the grocery store, you don’t know how old the produce is. According to one report, spinach retains only 53% of its folate and 54% of its carotene after just eight days stored at fridge temperature.
- CSA produce prevents colds.
Okay, so this is based on just on my experience, but this winter I haven’t been sick. I taught school in November and December, and many of the teachers and students had bad colds. My extended family had bad colds over Christmas. But so far, I’ve stayed well, and I’m usually someone who catches most anything that comes around. (Edit: I did get a sniffle last week, but it only lasted a couple of days and showed up after three weeks of no weekly CSA produce.)
- CSA produce tastes better than what you get at the store.
That’s a really good thing if you’re like me and never were a big vegetable eater. How are you going to get people who have been raised on foods with high sugar and salt content to like vegetables if you feed them second-rate veggies? And did I tell you all about the night my 18-year-old step-son made himself a salad for dessert?
Last summer when we were on vacation in Florida, I bought some zucchini at the grocery store to make our favorite vegetable dish – stir-fried zucchini. My guys (who are pretty good vegetable eaters in general) thought it was fine, but I ended up foisting all my zucchini off on them. It just didn’t taste anywhere near as good to me.
- Better taste makes CSA vegetables easier to cook well.
When you start with produce this fresh, simple recipes come out really well. This builds confidence and encourages you to cook and eat more good food. If the first time I’d made stir-fried zucchini had been with store-bought produce, I don’t know if I’d have made it again. Same thing for field peas, beets, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, and lots of other veggies.
Seasonal vegetables give you something to look forward to. When everything’s available all the time, you miss out on the anticipation and the change of seasons. I remember when my brother and I would look forward to watching the Grinch every December. Now that people own the DVD and can watch it anytime, it seems to have lost its magic.
Fresh vegetables aren’t exactly the same as Christmas, but it’s still fun when the season and the produce starts to change. Last spring, we were tired of salad and ready for the summer vegetables to arrive . We dreamt of fresh tomatoes and zucchini dishes. Then, by the end of August, I couldn’t wait for lettuce again. It’s a wonderful cycle that’s fun to be a part of. If you really want lettuce, you can go and buy some. But it’s never as good. When I have broken down and bought lettuce at the store, it’s terribly disappointing – unless it’s so out of season that I can’t remember what CSA lettuce tastes like.
South of Greenville, SC is the Happy Cow Creamery. It began with a dairy farmer who devised a year-long pasturing plan that has the cows regularly moving to, well, greener pastures. He says they get really excited and dance near the gates when he arrives to let them at their new eats.
I totally know how they feel.