What to Expect When You Join a CSA
Lo.ca.vore: noun, a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food
One of the easiest ways to live the locavore life in New York City is to join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription program. Maybe you’ve read articles about CSAs? Listened to your officemates wax poetic on the virtues of having three types of kale to choose from? Maybe you’ve even picked up a share for your sister-in-law when they went on family vacation? You were inspired, you took the plunge and signed up.
What, you ask yourself as you send off that first installment payment, have I gotten myself into now?
Joining a CSA calls for a different way of thinking about how you do your grocery shopping. One of the first concepts to hurdle is the idea of paying for produce before it is even harvested. After a few weeks of picking up fresh, beautiful vegetables without having to lay out another dime, I promise you that hurdle is overcome! We’ve been members of a CSA for over 10 years and have been running a CSA for five of those years. I’ve amassed some basic advice for new members:
Show up on time! Bluntly said, by joining a CSA you’ve committed to arriving at a designated location once a week, at a specific time, to collect a bag of produce. Make sure that you have done your research and know where the site is located, if it suits your needs in terms of transportation and access to parking. Most importantly, make sure that the distribution time coordinates with your schedule!
Introduce yourself to your CSA coordinator! Make sure you have correct contact information and that they have the best contact information for you. You will be receiving weekly emails from them with lots of valuable information about your CSA’s procedures that will make the season so much more successful for you. Give them a call before the season starts and let them know you’re a newbie—most CSA coordinators will be happy to chat for a few minutes and answer your concerns. We live for this!
Treat the CSA site like a home you’ve been invited to! CSA sites are quite often public spaces, but sometimes they are in the driveway of someone’s home. Either way, treat these spaces with respect. Cigarette smoking, loud conversations on your cell phone, blocking someone’s driveway, double parking and littering all should be avoided.
Always bring a bag! Some CSAs will have reusable bags available for members on the first week; our farm provides us with a few boxes of them every year to distribute. Don’t assume that your coordinators will have bags for you; bring at least two reusable bags with you each week. We keep a small supply of bags, but hand them out with a kind reminder to “bring your own next week; we may not have any…”
If you can’t make it to the distribution...send a friend or relative in your place. And most importantly, make sure they bring a bag.
Be prepared for abundance! At the beginning of your first CSA season, you will be overwhelmed with salad greens. And quite often, zucchini. Or tomatoes. In the fall, you will wonder what to do with turnips. Or celeriac. It happens. And on the other side of the coin, be prepared for crop failures. They happen too.
Sign up for your volunteer shift early in the season! Core members love new members, we love to share information with them, regale them with funny stories and share our best and most useful recipes. Plus, you get to meet all of the other members in your group. You just might find out that a friend or neighbor of yours is already part of your CSA. But most importantly, it helps you to understand that you are part of a community of engaged food-loving friends.
If you haven’t already signed up for a CSA share for 2017, you still have time. Most CSAs accept members up until May 31; most distributions begin the second week of June. To find a CSA in your area, go to www.justfood.org, enter your ZIP code or look up by borough. There are nine CSA locations in the Bronx.