Saturday, February 28, 2009
What's a CSA box?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is a concept that has been around for a while, but only recently has caught on in the American mainstream. I just found out, interestingly, the idea started in the mid 1960's in Germany and Switzerland, and was based on the economic ideas of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf School education.
The idea is simple: local farmers are supported by people in nearby urban populations -- if enough people get together, they can contract the farmer to keep them supplied with fresh produce throughout the growing season, supporting local sustainable agriculture based on ecologically sound practices.
Originally, most CSAs would work thus: you prepay the farmer (let's say $300), and then all summer long you receive your "share" in weekly produce boxes. Some farms even had the city dwellers come out and help with harvest at the farm every week.
Gradually CSAs became more "user-friendly", and you could choose when the boxes come -- so if you went away on vacation, you didn't end up with produce going to waste. Some now even allow you to choose the contents of the box (hate kohlrabi? then substitute carrots...)
We get out produce from Glacier Valley Farm in the nearby Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and this time of year it's a mixture of organic produce from Alaska and Outside (that's what Alaskans call the rest of the US). Another popular CSA around here is Full Circle Farm which ships its produce from the the Pacific Northwest.
So every week on Wednesdays, we pick up our CSA box. It's a little bit like Christmas: opening the box and finding out what goodies await your culinary experiments this week (but first it's time to hit the recipe books...)!
It's interesting to me how, after having lived all over the world and tasted many cuisines (and I love exotic produce and ethnic foods!), I'm now coming "home" to the recipes of Northern Europe -- heavily reliant on potatoes, apples, carrots, the cabbage family, etc...