updated: now with picture!
A few years ago, when the Eat Local and Slow Food movements were getting attention, I thought it would be quite thoughtful if I made my contribution to local agriculture and participated in a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. There are many farms around the country that do this – the easiest way to find one close to you is to do a quick search. There are actually a few different CSAs in San Diego. I think there’s one that delivers to you, but most of them have designated pick up spots that you go to on a certain day.
Be Wise Ranch is one of the cheaper subscriptions and they also have the most varied pick-up locations (all around San Diego). They offer Large or Small boxes, weekly or every other week, and you can start with a 4-week trial (or 8-weeks if you choose the every other week pick-up). They seriously have pick-up spots everywhere throughout the week. If they don’t have one near you, maybe you don’t really live in San Diego. I find it more convenient to pick up a share on my way home from work rather than going to the farmer’s market on the weekend.
I held off joining for a few reasons at first.
- It sounds like a chunk of money when you send in quarterly payments.
- At the time, I was only really cooking for one (one of these days, let me tell you how much more fun it is to cook for two) and not buying a lot of produce.
- I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to deal with wacky vegetables that weren’t on my regular rotation list.
- I wasn’t a big salad eater, and everyone knows you always get lettuce in the CSA box.
- Henry’s was a good supplier of cheap produce and I figured I was only spending maybe $10-20 a month on fruits and veggie; even Be Wise Ranch is about $13 a week.
Then I moved into a house with a backyard and an already-fenced garden area. I’ll just grow my own vegetables! You can’t get more local than that! I even got a nifty seed starting set for a present and then went hog wild buying seeds from everywhere. I even got all nerdy and plotted my garden and planned plantings in CAD, complete with gridlines! Seedlings grew, the ground was tilled, seedlings got planted, sometimes the plants didn’t get watered, and some died. Some were victims of a certain dog, who shall remain nameless **Cassie**, who discovered she could jump over the low fence and dig in all the fun new dirt and greenery. You know that zucchini plants are very hardy, right? Like, you could think about planting a single squash seed and before you know it a huge plant has taken over, threatening to strangle the nearby citrus trees and filling your house (and friends’ houses) with zucchini. Anyway, suffice to say I had a lot of zucchini and only zucchini that year.This year, I have even more zucchini (I swear I planted only one plant!), a few tomatoes, some garlic… and more zucchini.
I have now gotten way off point. The point was that I am not going to successfully provide myself with enough produce to have a balanced diet and that Henry’s, while great for bulk items, isn’t always consistent with the quality of fruits and vegetables. I also had some extra spending money, so I decided to just try a 4-week trial of the CSA.
We’re now into our second box of goodies (I did a Large share, every other week) and I’m having fun. We go through the veggies in about 2 weeks, although sometimes I have to get creative and just cook it up so we can eat it. The downside is that I also get zucchini with my share.
Be Wise Ranch also posts a Weekly Pick List, so you can get an idea of what you might get when you pick up your share. I like to compare what I’m getting to the Small box, and also to what the shares got the week before (since I skip a week).
The first week we had lettuce, strawberries, mizuna (just cook it with bacon and gulp it down – it’s bitter and coarse, but maybe some people like that), zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, more greens and something else. I don’t know. I do know that we had an excess of lettuce that week because of my mom’s visit and we lost a head of the CSA lettuce due to poor packaging on my part. I also pushed off zucchini to Cami.
The next box had lettuce, carrots, zucchini, turnips, lemons, cucumbers, betts, chard, bok choy, and arugula. And possibly more greenery, I’m not sure. We’re getting through them pretty well and I’m sure we’ll be out of veggies by the time our next pick-up arrives.
One of my arguments against joining a CSA was that I would spend less money just doing my own shopping. And that I don’t have time to go to the farmer’s market. What I’ve realized is that the CSA gives me a larger quantity (never mind high quality and huge variety) than I would have if left to my own devices. It also forces us to eat more vegetables since we have them sitting in the 2 veggie drawers in the fridge. I think this is a good thing all around.
If you have the time and money to do so, I have now joined those who highly recommend joining a CSA. And if you’re going to join one in San Diego, I think Be Wise Ranch is the most convenient and economical and so far their produce has been exceptional.