Have you ever wished that a box of vegetables would appear in your kitchen each week? A CSA – or Community Supported Agriculture – lets you bring home fresh, seasonal ingredients for a week’s worth of local meals.
Many farmers save their best produce for their CSA members. They go out in the fields to pick the freshest lettuce and carrots for their spring CSA boxes, and customers pick them up at the farm or a designated spot in town. In the summer, the boxes are full of squash and zucchini, as well as tomatoes and sometimes strawberries or melons. By fall, customers take home everything from kale to cabbage.
We wanted to share some CSA stories from the customers’ perspective. You’ll meet first-time CSA members at their pick-up spot to see what’s in their box. Then you’ll get to know a longtime local food supporter who has been a member of multiple CSAs over the years. And then we’ll chat with a business owner and mom who joined a CSA to strengthen bonds with a farmer friend.
First, meet Luke Costlow and Macon York-Costlow. On a warm summer day a couple years back, they went to the River Arts District farmers market to pick up their CSA box. It was their first year as CSA members, and they were really excited when they opened their box of eggplant, carrots, and beans.
Luke says that eating locally has become second nature since joining a CSA. Sometimes they don’t realize they’ve made an entirely local feast until they sit down to eat. “We’ve had several times this summer that we have plated our dinner and we look down at the plate and said everything on this plate came from our garden or from our CSA,” he says.
In the years since, they’ve become more adventurous cooks and their commitment to local food and making meals at home has deepened.
Julie Montanea is also an enthusiastic cook who stocks her kitchen with local food. She likes letting the seasons guide her meals, and has been a member of two CSAs over the years.
“[CSAs] put you more in touch with what is really abundant right now. It’s a challenge sometimes because I’m like, ‘I’ve never had this before. I’ve never made this before. What the heck do I do with this?’ But the great thing about most of our farmers that do CSAs, at least the two I’ve been with, Mountain Harvest Organics and Gaining Ground, is that they also put out recipes for you. It’s great fun,” she says.
Now let’s go back to the farmers market for another CSA box reveal. It’s one year later and Jessie Dean, owner of Asheville Tea Company, is picking up her CSA. She’s been friends with the farmer for years. Sara Jane Davis of A Way of Life Farm opens up the CSA box and tells Jessie what’s she’ll be eating this week, including basil, swiss chard, and cucumbers.
Dean says it’s exciting to see the seasons change through her food. “I always love it when the tomatoes start coming in. Strawberries we loved, obviously that just is tapering now, but that was a big one. And every now and then there’s a melon which we get excited about, too,” he says.
She adds that having a relationship with the farmer who grows her food is a big reason she joined the CSA in 2011.
“Sara Jane and I are friends and have known each other for a long time, and when they moved out to Rutherfordton to start their farm we wanted to support the farm and support them. It’s also great, aside from that, to get local fruit and veggies that we feel really good about and that we know are going to be healthy for our family, and we know who grew it, so that feels really good,” she says.
If you’re interested in learning more about Community Supported Agriculture, ASAP has a new CSA guide. It will be distributed at 100 locations throughout the region this month. Look for it in your community or contact ASAP to learn more.
Aired: January 22, 2019