IN 2000 I LIVED IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND and signed up for â€œOrganics to You,â€ a Portland program that delivers local farm-fresh produce to subscribing families. Every other week, Iâ€™d receive a box of such fragrant, vibrant, gorgeous produce that I thought I had died and awoken in Jamie Oliverâ€™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 farmerâ€™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 farmâ€™s produce stash at will, taking everything from chartreuse broccolini to cherry tomatoesâ€”sweet as candyâ€”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 Manzanitaâ€™s Revolution Gardens begins, and Iâ€™ve been counting the days.
â€œCSAâ€ stands for Community-Supported Agriculture and is a way for individuals and families to buy memberships or â€œsharesâ€ 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 $115â€”which suits most budgets swimmingly. My two-person household has a Â½ 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!