Picking The Right CSA

Reader Contribution by Shawn Hosford
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In anticipation of the upcoming CSA season, I thought I would tackle a question that my lovely sister-in-law Wendy asked me some time ago: “How do you pick a good CSA?” That’s a bit hard for me to answer, because we’ve been members of our CSA for the past 20-plus years; I’m out of picking practice. If memory serves me correctly, I narrowed down my choices from two to one by talking directly with the farmers. I like interacting with people I support, so before doing business with someone, my normal route is to figure out if we’re a good human-to-human match. I even do this when choosing most doctors. In talking with both women from different CSAs, I connected more quickly with one than the other. It helped that she and her business partner had graduated from my alma mater, and her reasons for starting the farm also resonated with me. They seemed like the kind of gals I wanted to partner with. The fit between them, their food, their farm, and our family felt right.

Over the past 20-plus years, we’ve gotten to know Annie and Susan through the food they and their crew grows, their Helsing Junction Farm events, their newsletters, and the recipes that come with our produce every week. I feel fed by our CSA community, beyond just the incredibly flavorful food. Every week, from summer through fall, I look forward to eating and sharing all their goodies, even the unexpected and unusual variety of crops that I may have never cooked with before. When I have recommended CSA’s to friends and family in the past, they’ve sometimes noted the diversity as difficult for meal planning. I get that, but as a woman with the TV show Chopped as one of guilty pleasures, my box invigorates me to think and cook creatively.

My advice to anyone looking to join a CSA would be to visit your farms of choice and see if the farmer’s values align with your own, check out the past lists of types of shares and what the boxes in those shares were filled with each week, consider whether the delivery site is convenient, find out how they treat their employees, and, if possible, see if you can contact a current customer to ask any further questions.

If someone was looking for a reference for Helsing, I imagine I would say that after our long history together, I still love the value of my share, and I find equal, if not more, value in our partnership. During these summer and fall weeks, I tend to go to the grocery store less, which saves our family a great deal of money, but the savings pale in comparison with the multiple ways Helsing has, and continues to, enrich our lives.

How do you pick who you support with your business and consumption dollars? Have you ever visited a CSA? Are you interested in direct farmer and community membership support?

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