Community Supported Agriculture, or a CSA, makes eating local food a pleasure of daily life. Throwing together a spring salad with local lettuce, radishes, and snap peas is easy when you stock your refrigerator with a weekly CSA.
Community members sign up for a farm’s CSA in early spring. As soon as the crops are ready, farmers pack up boxes or bags that are full of their freshest foods. Customers pick them up each week throughout the growing season at a designated spot. People who sign up for produce CSAs often get the first cucumbers of spring, juicy tomatoes in the height of summer, and sweet peppers in fall, among dozens of other offerings.
Many people think of vegetable and fruit CSAs, but as the concept becomes more popular, some farms are thinking outside the produce drawer. Several local farms offer flower CSAs, which let members bring everything from snapdragons to sunflowers into their homes. Some CSAs include herbs and eggs, and there are several farms that offer meat CSAs.
“It’s kind of funny when I say I grow pigs and potatoes because meat and potatoes are a thing, but they also just complement each other really well,” says Dave Walker from Daffodil Spring Farm in Watauga County, North Carolina.
His meat and potato CSAs are the backbone of a classic meal, and also a way to support a local farm throughout the year. At Daffodil Spring Farm, the pigs live outdoors and are rotated to fresh pasture every two weeks. Their feed comes from the locally-owned Boone Stockyard and includes wheat midds, milo, and black oil sunflower seeds.
The pork CSA is one of the most common ways customers engage with the farm. Twice a month for four months, CSA members receive many kinds of pastured pork, including sausage, pork chops, ribs, and more.
The potatoes are offered through a separate CSA that runs July through October. If you’re imagining a typical spud, think again.
“I think what’s interesting about the potato CSA is that folks will have a chance to try 14 different varieties of potatoes and some of those potatoes are unique to the High Country and could only be offered to CSA members,” he says.
Dave has a favorite variety called Blue Waldo II. It’s sourced from long-time High Country seed savers Marilyn Derr and Rob Danforth.
“It’s dark purple on the outside and on the inside it has a white ring and a blue and white star shape coloring on the inside. It’s like a big fingerling and it’s just a really delicious potato,” he says.
CSA members also get Adirondack Red potatoes, which are known for their bold red color. Roast then alongside blue potatoes for a rainbow effect on the dinner plate. Rob’s Russet potatoes are also sourced from High Country seed savers and are excellent storage potatoes. The potato CSA ends in October, but if the late season potatoes are stored properly, they’ll be delicious in a vegan potato soup or beside a pork chop well into winter.
One of the benefits of a CSA for customers and farmers is getting to know each other throughout the year. CSA members can ask their farmer questions, chat about their lives and shared love of local food, and swap recipes.
“It’s really fun. I get the best recipes from my customers and all the time they tell me what they’re doing with unusual cuts,” he says.
Dave is looking forward to seeing returning customers and getting to know new ones. It’s like a family reunion when everyone picks up their food for the first time that year.
“I’m more and more excited about the growing season coming along and the CSA and reconnecting with customers,” he says.
There are dozens of different CSAs in the region that offer everything from fruit to flowers. Look for ASAP’s printed and digital CSA guide to find Daffodil Spring Farm and other farms that offer CSAs. Or meet farmers offering CSAs in the Asheville area at ASAP’s virtual CSA Fair March 10. Find out more at www.asapconnections.org
Aired: March 1, 2021