Once you go farm share, you don’t go back.
In the last three seasons, I have been with a different farm each year, and while some are stronger with certain types of produce or have more interesting offerings, I have never been disappointed. Now, in the off-season, I have an incredibly difficult time eating supermarket vegetables (even from Whole Foods!), because I have been spoiled by incredibly inexpensive freshness and variety.
When I tell people that I have a farm share, it always surprises me how many people are not familiar with this fantastic concept. Also commonly referred to as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program), you pay upfront and then get a portion of fresh farm-picked food every week for 20 or so weeks. Depending on the set-up, you either are given a pre-sorted bag of goodies or you go to the pick-up location and pick out your own according to that weeks guidelines (one pound peaches, two pounds squash, ½ pound fiddlehead ferns, etc.)
Find a CSA near you with the Local Harvest zip code search, which provide great farm profiles including costs, season length, and pick-up points.
The larger shares offer the most bang for your buck (often less than ten dollars per week for a huge, over-flowing box of food when split with 2-4 people), but even a half or single share will still usually average you around or little more than ten or twelve dollars a week. One week I went to Whole Foods and found that my early season single share (at $11/week) would have cost me more than thirty dollars!
2. No shopping
It is such a wonderful feeling to come home from work or start preparing for a dinner party and not need to do any shopping. With my farm share, my fridge is always overflowing with more fresh produce than I know what to do with. It makes the decision to cook at home instead of eating out or picking up something pre-made so much easier when you know you have good produce waiting for you.
You never know exactly what will arrive in your share each week and sometimes even when it comes, you aren’t sure what you have! The variety of vegetables can really make you use all those dust-covered cookbooks or stacks of Gourmet and Bon Appetit. I find that each year, I get more comfortable and familiar with certain obscure veggies. Now, I can whip up delicious beet salads, kale soups, and French breakfast radishes when I didn’t know the first thing about how to prepare these items a few years ago.
It goes without saying that a diet laden with fresh vegetables will be more full of nutrients than a one consisting solely of junk food, but farm fresh vegetables have an additional edge on what you find in the store. They are picked very shortly before being delivered to you, so the plant has more time to absorb nutrients from the soil and create the delicious natural flavors that are often absent or in short supply in supermarket produce.
5. Environmentally Friendly
It has become a common saying that most meals travel an average of 1500 miles before they get to your plate. This not only means that produce was picked un-ripe and chemically ripened en-route, but also that significant amounts of fossil fuel were expended to bring your food to you. With a farm share, your produce typically only hopped one small truck for between five and a hundred miles to reach you.
And the real unexpected bonus of my farm share:
An excuse for a party!
Even though I only have a single share this season, it is still more than enough food for me. When I had a larger share, it was the perfect impetus to have a bunch of friends over on Sunday night to share in the summer bounty and set me up with plenty delicious prepared food left for the week. Farm fresh produce requires such little preparation that I can invite some friends and easily get everything ready while they are chatting over wine and hors d’oeuvres.