One of my favourite weekend outings is to visit our local farmer’s market. I love seeing all the artisanal baked goods, gourmet dips, cheese, cured meats and handcrafted trinkets and products.
My favourite part about the market is buying my weekly supply of fresh produce. Most Edmonton markets have had to adjust their operations this year with many offering curbside pick-up, ensuring physical distancing among guests, reducing capacity, etc. In the early spring, I wasn’t sure what this summer’s markets would bring and I really wanted to continue enjoying locally grown fresh produce during our short growing season. I started to explore some other ways I could support local businesses and still get my fix of delicious fruits and veggies. One day, my partner brought home a flyer from a colleague about a Community Shared/Supported Agriculture (CSA) that she operates.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an organized process involving the distribution and growth of organic produce. This connects farmers with the community at large. Every spring, residents reach out to a local organic farm to subscribe for a “share” of the year’s harvest.
There are a number of environmental benefits to CSAs.
- Most producers use little or no chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- There is a lower carbon footprint as a result of the small scale local production and distribution of food.
- There is less packaging required and items are usually distributed in reusable boxes or bags.
- This is also a great way to support local economies and small business owners.
A CSA seemed like a perfect fit to my market dilemma. We signed up for two shares of vegetables and two shares of fruit. Share sizes vary with each CSA, usually one share is sufficient for each person per week. This worked out to about $30/week. We picked up our shares once a week at a convenient location about 10 minutes from our neighborhood. Every week was a new surprise of what we would receive. There were some weeks that I needed to be creative with finding new recipes or ways to prepare some of the items. The trickiest item was fennel. I ended up using it in salads, stir fries, seasonings and freezing it to use this winter. The number of shares that we selected was a perfect match for our family’s needs. We were often using up the last bit of the previous week’s shares the day that we were picking up our new batch.
Part of our last share of the season
Over the course of our subscription, we learned so much about where our food was grown and what kind of issues each crop was having. There was a sense of investment and connection that we had to the food that we were getting. It helped me think outside the box and reimagine how our food could be used. There were a few occasions that we had too much of one thing; green onions and beet greens are a couple of examples. Instead of tossing what I couldn’t use, I made sure to chop them up and freeze them to use later. We also had a surplus of carrots and green beans at one point, so I tried pickling them to preserve them for later. They turned out to be quite yummy!
Canned and Frozen Surplus Produce
Overall, our CSA experience was positive and inspiring. We will definitely sign up again next year. Perhaps, I’ll even venture into trying to grow some easy vegetables in my own backyard. It doesn’t get more “local” than that!
Has anyone else participated in a CSA? Share your thoughts and comments below.