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Tips for a Successful CSA

Do you belong to a CSA?  Do you know what CSA means?  I hope so as it is a full-swing back to to how many people in the world acquire food and how, once upon a time, we acquired food ourselves - if we did not grow it ourselves.  (In case you do not know it is Community Supported Agriculture.)  Off and on for years we have been part of the CSA experience.  I primarily signed us up during summers when I was home with the kids.  Like this summer.   If being truthful, I can tell you that some of our experiences were not great.



When CSA's first began here there were only a couple.  These people were not only pioneers in hosting a CSA in my area, they are pioneers in healthy growing techniques here and around the country.  But, their CSA left something to be desired - for me anyway.  The pick-up was out of the way during rush hour, the vegetables were sometimes exotic and frequently those exotic veggies were more than plentiful while things we really wanted - like green beans or onions were in short supply.  Now, producer only farmer's markets and CSA's are plentiful in our agriculturally rich area and I carefully chose the CSA to supplement my own home garden efforts this year.  I do believe my patience and continued support of this food movement has paid off!


Okay.  So now you belong to a CSA.  How do you make it work?  How do you make the foods coming from the CSA work for your family and prevent throwing food away?  Well, there are many ways, but today I am focusing on prepping the food when it comes in.  Luckily for us, our farmers clean the produce before it gets to us.  Many CSA's do not.  That's okay.  The dirt that comes from our CSA reminds us that food does not come from the grocery store but from the farmers who work the land.  Too few of us remember that as convenience and technology take further holds in our lives.



In case there is confusion, I'll go through each of these steps.


1.  Pick up your veggies.


2.  Take them home.


3.  Unpack your bounty on a clean, clutter free counter.  Why a clean, clutter free counter?  If you are like me and you attempt to do this amid a mess, you may give up before you get started or you may attempt to clean first making you far too exhausted to prep your veggies.


4.  Wash your veggies (soak if necessary).  Why soak?  My farmer washes my veggies (or one of his 10 children does so).  But, I have belonged to a CSA where the veggies came fresh from the ground and needed a soaking to remove the dirt.  In case you are concerned....dirt good.  (For the record, little bug bites in your plants are good too.  They let you know your farmer is on the up and up.)  Also, if you have greens they may have been picked the day before and wilted along the way.  A good soak in ice water will perk them right up.


5.  Prep the produce if needed.  In the first photo you will see my prep process.  For smaller amounts or things such as onions, I dice and store in mason jars that will go into my fridge.  Guess what?  I prepped enough onions for a week's worth of meals.  You CANNOT imagine how much time that has saved me over the past few weeks.  Everything is prepped and ready to cook/eat.


6.  Decide what will be placed where.  Most everything will go into the fridge, but some things, such as fresh herbs that were dried in the oven, are now in herb jars in the cabinet.  You may receive an abundance of potatoes at some point.  Those can be stored under the house or in a cool basement.


7.  Place in appropriate containers.  You can see I like to use mason jars for many items.  They are an inexpensive way to store foods and you can place many in the fridge or freezer together.  Though I prefer glass, you can see I have two plastic containers.



"That is one of my more brilliant ideas. And between you and me, that is saying something."                             - Albus Dumbledore



This is what we call "the salad bar".  We love a salad bar.  Whole Foods.  Jason's Deli.  You get it, right?  I have two three section containers in which I place our favorite salad bar faves for quick salads.  Greens go in the larger sections.  The smaller ones have black olives, sunflower seeds, cranberries and raw feta.  There are many ways to store your veggies.  Find the ones that work for you.


8.  Finally!  Store your veggies.  There is some small satisfaction I get in opening my fridge, pantry, etc. and seeing all of the love I get from my farmer and the work I put into using the bounty in a healthy way.



I am going to leave you with some sobering facts and links:  One-fifth of our nation's garbage is food waste.  We are fat, sick, unhealthy and we throw away the gifts of the Earth each and every day.  When you think of our parents saying to us "eat your food, there are children starving on the other side of the world",  guess what?  It's true.  In fact, being so entrenched in the adoption community here I know many of those former starving children.  Not only do we throw the food away, we put it into plastic bags that will never break down when it could be composted into reusable plant food for your home garden or for animals who surely come out at night.



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