You’ve probably heard of CSAs but have you ever wondered who buys shares or why? Check out some first-hand CSA experiences from our guest blogger Gina Sampaio.
I never saw a need to buy a share in the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. We had our own garden in the yard; a respectable 20’ x 40’ plot where we managed to grow plenty of vegetables for our growing family and even had some to give away. My parents own a local nursery and kindly get us started every year with all the seedlings we can handle. Why would I pay to belong to what is just a bigger garden?
Sure, there have been problems with home gardening. The groundhogs have been my biggest enemy. We have a fence because if we didn’t the deer would eat everything. What we didn’t anticipate was the groundhogs burrowing UNDER the fence to help themselves to our food. I tried all the tips I could find on the Internet, (and the Farmers’ Almanac) such as pouring ammonia around the garden. The urine-like scent of the ammonia acts as a deterrent to the groundhogs. It worked great–for a few days. Then my grass around the garden was dead, the old ammonia washed away, the groundhogs came back.
What really made me angry was the way they insisted on sampling from each vegetable: a nibble from one cucumber here, a chomp out of another one there. I would have been much happier if they just took one entire cucumber and left another whole one for us. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a way to communicate that to them!
Brother-in-law with a backhoe to the rescue!
My husband and brother-in-law pulled out the old fence and dug a ditch all around the garden to bury our new fence deeper into the Earth. It worked; the groundhogs did not find a way into our garden last year (though a deer one time managed to jump over the 4-foot fence). So I thought we won again and there’s no real reason to join a CSA.
Then I saw a movie entitled The Real Dirt on Farmer John, about a Midwestern farmer who decided to transform his family’s dying farm into a thriving organic CSA. (http://www.angelicorganics.com/)
As I watched the film, I was struck by the amount of food the CSA members were able to harvest. We eat everything we grow and rarely have much to freeze or can. I’d love to have more food to put away for the winter. If we were getting a large box of food every week, surely there’d be at least a little extra to save.
What also caught my eye was the variety of vegetables they reaped: if my family joined the CSA we’d be able to try things we’d never even had before or would have dreamed of growing ourselves. Swiss chard! Rhubarb! Kohlrabi! My children would be forced to try new things! Maybe they’d even come to enjoy them.
The more I thought about it, the more appealing the CSA became to me. I’d still have my home garden for our personal favorites: tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, etc., but this year I could dedicate some space to flowers or crops that take up a lot of room, like pumpkins. In the past, I had to be more selective in my use of garden space and didn’t want to waste any. This year I could have a little space to waste. The decision had been made: we were joining a CSA.
*It’s not too late to buy a share in a CSA near you. To find a local one, search here: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ If the price for a share is too steep to pay at once, ask about payment policies. Many, like ours, offer work shares. Others offer half shares or payment plan options. Additionally, you could split a share with a friend or neighbor.*
—Gina Sampaio lives in rural New Jersey with her husband and four children. She strives to raise her children instilled with a respect for the Earth and its people.