CSA intro series: Preparing for your CSA

Preparing for your CSA ahead of your first pickup can make everything run smoother during the season. Here’s what you can do to be ready:

1. Clean out your fridge (and plan to do so periodically throughout the season)

Before your first pickup, get rid of any expired condiments, reorganize, and clean your fridge. Your share can take up a lot of space in your fridge, so make room. Your produce won’t generally come to you in bags or containers, so it’s a good idea to have clean shelves and drawers ready. You are going to want to thoroughly clean your fridge at least a few more times during the season because what you get will not look like what you get at the grocery store – shiny and clean. Your fridge will get dirty with actual dirt. My quick cleaning technique is to first do a pass with the crevice tool of my vacuum cleaner (the long attachment that comes to a point to fit into corners) followed by a quick wipe down with dilute white vinegar.

photo credit Andrew Gustar

2. Get a few reusable grocery totes

Your share will be given to you in a box, which is awkward to carry. And if you bring the box home, you have to remember to bring it back (and, I don’t know about you, but I never remember to do that) because the farm probably reuses those box week to week. A better option is to bring a few reusable shopping totes.For our share, meant to feed 2-4 people for a week, I bring three totes. It could fit in two, but I like the third bag for delicate items, like tomatoes or peaches. The Envirosax brand is my favorite – they’re big, durable (I’ve had mine for at least 8 years), washable, easily foldable, and come in all sorts of pretty patterns.

3. Save produce bags from grocery store throughout the year

Your produce will come to you mostly unpackaged. Things like green beans might come in a bag, but others, like kale or carrots, might come loose or bound with a rubber band. When I get home after pickup, I immediately sort and put some items in plastic produce bags. It helps keep them fresher and makes managing space in my fridge easier. To reuse, just turn the bags inside out to dry.

4. Get a salad spinner

You are probably going to get greens, be it collards or lettuce greens, that are dirty. I spent my fair share of time eating somewhat gritty greens (and was fine with it!), but then I bought a $6 IKEA strainer. What a difference! It is really nice to have clean greens. Four years and the spinner is still going strong!

Preparing for your CSA - get a salad spinner! IKEA TOKIG salad spinner

IKEA | www.IKEA.com | 888-888-IKEA(4532)

If you’re not into IKEA or sadly don’t live near one, the OXO salad spinner is supposed to be top of the line. It even has a brake to keep from over-drying greens!

Have more tips on preparing for your CSA? Leave a comment below and help others get ready for the season.

CSA Intro Series: What is a CSA?

With May here, CSA season is about to get underway in New England. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll explore CSAs and preparing for your upcoming season.

This week, we are starting with the basics.

What is a CSA?

CSA summer share

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share is, in essence, stock in a farm. You are paying into the farm’s season, and, in return, the farm commits to providing you a weekly box of produce, which varies throughout the summer. At the same time, though, you are at the whims of nature. If the farm has a bad season, your box might look less bountiful. In my 10 years with a CSA including last summer as all of New England was in the midst of a severe drought, I never felt like the contents of my box were less plentiful. If anything, it usually means that, if they are having a superbly good year, you might see a bit more.

For you, this means that you are getting a pretty good deal on produce. If you do a price comparison to your local grocery store, you will see that your CSA box gives you more for less. For the farm, it directly connects producers with consumers and creates a guaranteed consumer base for their produce. But what you also might notice is that CSA farms encourage you to sign up early, so you might be paying for your summer share in winter or winter share in spring. CSA payments provides a guaranteed source of income for the farms at a time when the farm is not producing, but needs funds for things like seeds and investing in capital improvement. CSA members are a valuable source for some upfront capital to prepare for the season.

How to join

If you have not signed up for your summer CSA yet, I suggest you do so soon!

I am a member of Stillman’s Farm summer CSA and have been with them since 2009. I cannot recommend them highly enough! To sign up, go to their website and pick your box size. A small-medium box feeds two people for the week, while a larger box will feed a family. If this is your first season, try the small-medium box to get your feet under you.

To look for other options, the Massachusetts government website has a list of CSAs in the state. For those outside of Massachusetts, try Local Harvest to see what’s available in your area. Always check the farm’s website as these resources can sometimes be out of date.

If you are super excited about this CSA thing (and you should be!) consider signing up for Curt and Halley’s Still Life Farm winter CSA. With spring here, their work is well underway to provide delicious local produce for the fall and winter.