As Spring Approaches, Time To Choose A CSA

A plethora of tomatoes from Harmony Fields Farm (src)

Fear not, friends, winter is finally receding. Spring will be here on March 20 (at least, in definition, maybe not in temperature) and that means farmers across the country will be gearing up for the wonderful produce season. You, too, can start a garden (in Louisville the time to plant comes around the end of April), but if you don’t have quite the green thumb, joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is the way to go. Why? Two basic reasons: one, your food comes from closer, saving on food miles, carbon emissions, and keeping it fresher. Two, you’re supporting a local community farmer instead of a faceless grocery (or giant chain!), keeping your money and support inside the community that you reside.

Still in the dark? A CSA works like this: you or your family (or group of friends) buy a share which, just like stock or a bond, is an investment in the farm and farmer(s) that you purchased it from. If they have a good year, you get a lot of produce; if they have a bad year, you won’t get as much. Most of the CSAs out there are pretty good at managing this, and I’ve never heard a story of someone spending money only to get an empty box each week (shares are typically delivered weekly). If you’re worried about a risk, one of the CSAs I’ll feature below has a great way of mitigating that. With that being said, here are three in Louisville I recommend. If you are interested, act fast – shares fill up quickly as the season approaches!

  • Grasshoppers Distribution is a very unique for a CSA. Rather than a share coming through one singular farm, Grasshoppers is a “farmer-owned distribution company” meaning that multiple farms from the Southern Indiana and Kentucky pool their knowledge and bounty to offer the best in low-risk offerings to shareholders. Grasshoppers offers far more than produce (though they’ve given me the largest turnips and sweet potatoes I’ve ever seen) too; see their services page for more info. Right now they’re offering a “CSA Extension” share from March 14 to April 22 to tide people over until the hefty Spring/Summer/Fall CSA arrives.
  • A Place on Earth has been around since 2005 in the eastern part of Kentucky, offering a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables to their CSA shareholders. It’s what my girlfriend and I used last year, and man did we score big. One of the awesome things about a CSA is that you typically get several new vegetables to try – stuff you may have never considered buying or using before. How many garlic scapes did we get? Enough to make multiple batches of vegan pesto, for sure. And the okra! We developed a love for okra last summer that will never die. The Place on Earth farmers, Courtney and Carden, were always very friendly and accommodating, and often came to the pick-ups to tell us about happenings on the farm. You don’t get that kind of personal attention when buying peppers at Kroger.
  • Lastly comes a CSA that I’m really excited about: Harmony Fields Farm, based out of Shelbyville, Kentucky. What initially drew me to the CSA was that currently the farmers raise no animals – a big plus for two vegans looking for a CSA, but beyond that, this farm is certified organic. That’s no small feat, as any farmer you ask will tell you. Crop contamination, paperwork, soil quality – the upkeep and requirements are immense. And while most of the farms around here are much cleaner than generic produce from your local supermarket, organic does mean something. When I spoke with the owner Larry on the phone, he explained to me that it’s all about soil preservation – making the land usable for years to come. The growing season for Harmony Fields is a bit shorter, too, and that’s why: the soil needs time to rest, and the preparation for a higher level of produce (without chemical fertilizers and pesticides) takes longer. I think it’s worth it.

If you don’t live near Louisville, check LocalHarvest to find a CSA near you. I highly recommend it – you’ll get fresh produce every week, support local farmers, and feel a stronger connection to the food you eat. If you’re worried about the cost, consider this: for around $600, you get a box full of produce for 22 weeks. That averages out to about $27/week, or the price of a decent dining-out excursion. To have your produce needs almost completely met, I think that’s a pretty good deal, given the outstanding quality of the produce. (If you don’t want to make such a big commitment, most farms offer half-shares as well)