Written by Catherine Holecko, family fitness expert at About.com
This past Thanksgiving, our menu featured root vegetables and winter squash from the last farm share box we received this season. It was the perfect way to complete our meal and I was—yes—grateful to have those fresh ingredients sitting in my pantry, ready to go.
It’s all thanks to our participating in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, in which members pay farmers in advance in exchange for a share of the harvest. A few years ago, my husband received an email at work. His employer was partnering with a local farm’s CSA program. The company would be a drop-off site for weekly deliveries from the farm. Employees could become CSA members and receive a box of fresh produce weekly during the season. We signed up right away. For about $25 per week, we get a delivery of fresh, seasonal produce every Thursday from June through October. So we’re eating local and we’re helping support a farm family in our community.
Each week’s box is different but provides us with all the vegetables we need for a week—and more. We usually freeze or preserve some, or save them for the following week. (Or a few weeks, if Thanksgiving is coming!)
For our family, participating in the CSA has meant learning a whole new way of eating: We cook and eat what we get in the box, even if we’ve never prepared it—or seen it!—before. I discovered I love roasted Brussels sprouts. My kids became kale chip converts; they devour an enormous bunch of kale in one sitting, once its leaves have been misted with olive oil and baked in the oven. We all realized that knobby, twisted, slightly hairy farm carrots have 10 times more flavor than bagged baby carrots.
I can’t stand to waste food, so I push myself to come up with new ways to serve (or preserve) our farm goodies, using recipes that appeal to our whole family. Luckily, our produce box comes with a weekly newsletter that’s full of recipes and serving suggestions, so we have a helping hand when it comes to unfamiliar foods (kohlrabi, anyone?). Happily, my kids have never been especially picky eaters, but like just about everyone, they could always use more veggies in their diet. The surprise factor of the weekly farm box—you never know what will be inside!—has a lot of power, and so does seeing familiar foods in unfamiliar ways (like carrots, string beans and potatoes that all come in a festive shade of purple).
Our farm also hosts an annual open house/potluck party, so members can meet the farmers and see the where their produce is grown, picked and packed. Attending this event proved to be a huge motivator for my tweens. All I have to say is “Try this. It’s from our farm,” and they’re willing to taste almost anything.
Catherine Holecko is the family fitness expert at About.com. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, son and husband.