In Which I Make a Shameless Plug for Your Local Farmer's Market
I would like to take some time to talk about our CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture.) A CSA share is like a subscription to a farmer’s market. In our case, it is a subscription to Tolstoy Farms, a mainstay of our local market. Tolstoy is a cooperative farming community located less than an hour outside of Spokane. All of their crops are organically grown and the members of the community share in the work, the fruits of the harvest, and the profit from the sale of the harvest. Beginning last summer, Stephen and I decided to invest in a CSA share with them. This means that every week for (I believe) 17 weeks, from the beginning of June, until mid-October, we get a box of produce from Tolstoy. This year we have also signed up for a fruit share and a winter share. The fruit share produce is provided by neighbors of the Tolstoy community. It runs for fewer weeks than the vegetable share and is cheaper. The winter share will provide us with 50 pounds each of squash, keeper onions and I think potatoes? at the end of the market season.
So, what’s so good about the CSA share? Well, I’ll tell you. Last summer, when I was only working part time, it saved our lives. The full vegetable share costs $400.00 for the whole 17 weeks (that’s $23.50 a week.) At a time when I forbade Stephen from buying lunch at McDonald’s and insisted that he keep all of his receipts so that I could track every cent that we spent, the farmer’s market box also cut my grocery cost in half, and sometimes in third. Since the box was already paid for I didn’t have to come up with money each week. In order to get a comparable amount of organically grown, fresh produce at a grocery store I would be spending at least twice as much if not more. We got so much produce that we were constantly eating from the box instead of making more expensive, less nutritious meals.
The CSA share is good in other ways. You are helping to support local people and local agriculture. Do you have any idea how many non-corporate farms still exist in America? Very few. You are cutting down on the usage of fossil fuels by buying locally, because the produce does not need to be shipped as far to get to you. You are supporting organic agriculture, which introduces fewer poisons into the environment and supports sustainable farming methods.
I love, love, love my farmer’s market box. You will never taste produce as fresh and flavorful as the produce from your local farmer’s market. You will also learn what it means to cook fresh produce when it is in season. The difference between amazingly flavorful, colorful, fulfilling produce eaten in season and the dull, drab, tasteless stuff that you can get in the middle of the winter at your local mega-mart is amazing. If you’ve never been to your local farmer’s market and never sampled the wares, you are missing out. These last few years our little market has grown. Almost every Saturday last summer Stephen and I bought an organically grown, grass fed chicken from a local farm (the Lazy Lightning H Ranch.) A whole chicken. We made beer can chicken, we made fried chicken. I still have memories of the chicken and dumplings. Even more important, I made batches and batches of homemade chicken stock that I froze and used throughout the winter. In fact, I’m pretty sure I still have enough stock to make one more pot of soup. This year we have more meat vendors, a cheese maker and guy whose selling spelt and emmer products (flour, pancake mix, etc.) So if you haven’t already, get out there and check out your local farmer’s market. Look around. Sample. Buy. Maybe even look into a CSA share. It’s definitely worth your time.