IN 2000 I LIVED IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND and signed up for “Organics to You,” a Portland program that delivers local farm-fresh produce to subscribing families. Every other week, I’d receive a box of such fragrant, vibrant, gorgeous produce that I thought I had died and awoken in Jamie Oliver’s kitchen. A year before this I had lived in rural Scotland, where produce is invariably packaged in plastic clamshells, comes in the washed-out colors of wedding mints, and is mealy as a McDonalds French fry. I had never been so happy to see a vegetable as I was upon the arrival of that box. When it included fresh basil I almost burst into arias. This, of course, was before the farmer’s market craze hit small towns.
From the organics-delivery experience, I graduated to community-gardening at a large organic farm in the Willamette Valley, where I, my daughter, and my then-husband would put in a few hours of work each month. In exchange, we could raid the farm’s produce stash at will, taking everything from chartreuse broccolini to cherry tomatoes—sweet as candy—to berries and tiny paisley eggplants. Not to mention bunches of red and yellow sunflowers and jewel-toned dahlias.
Since I moved to the coast in 2004, farmers markets have popped up one after the other. I now live in Nehalem and can visit a north-coast farmers market almost any day of the week! But making it to markets is often difficult, and there are times I arrive to find the produce booths sold-out. Most importantly, I have sorely missed the direct connection to a farm that I experienced as a community gardener.
That is, until this week! This week, my CSA share with Manzanita’s Revolution Gardens begins, and I’ve been counting the days.
“CSA” stands for Community-Supported Agriculture and is a way for individuals and families to buy memberships or “shares” in a local farm both to support the farm with early-season capitol, and to receive of its bounty. In the past I have shied away from CSAs because of the large outlay of money some require. But this year Revolution started a brilliant program by which members can participate by the season, either buying a full or half share. This means that vegetarian individuals, or non-vegetarian couples can get a half share in one 7-week season of the farm for just $115—which suits most budgets swimmingly. My two-person household has a ½ share in both the summer and fall garden seasons. Thus, I am set to enjoy fourteen weeks of fresh-picked local veggie splendor. Almost makes me giddy.
I CSA and so can you. For a directory of CSAs and more information, visit http://www.localharvest.org/csa/. A CSA, like home and community gardening, is a great way for parents to teach kids where food comes from, and the importance of cultivating organic soil and healthy environments. They also foster community food-security and build relationships between consumers and growers. It is the quintessential win-win!