This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for food.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible NOT to be, as pumpkin pie and garlic mashed potatoes are simply good for the soul, but this year was a little different than the worship I feel for each Thanksgiving meal. It’s also a little different from the typical day-to-day love affair I have with eggs and cheese.
This year, I am thankful for my house’s subscription to a CSA, for farm-fresh produce, and all the benefits we have enjoyed since.
A CSA (which stands for Community-Supported Agriculture) is a program that allows community members to purchase a “share” of food from a local farm on a regular basis during the farming season. It’s a great way for farmers to connect with the people eating their harvest as well as have a regular income during the season.
We had a host of reasons for joining a CSA. It’s more sustainable than purchasing produce at large grocery stores, since all of the produce is farm-fresh, organic and grown locally. The particular CSA we joined costs about $27 a week, which comes out to $9 a person per week in our house – cheaper than what we had been spending on vegetables and fruit at the store. It’s healthier, since you receive a lot of vegetables to use up in one week. My typical snack shifted from chips and cookies to apples and carrots very quickly; the amount of pasta I ate dropped significantly as meals became more creative to utilize vegetables such as butternut squash, dandelion greens and cauliflower.
These benefits were the ones we expected. What we didn’t expect was for a subscription to a CSA to bring our house closer together through shared community meals each night.
The natural progression of things, once we started getting a box full of fresh produce every Wednesday, was to wonder how we were going to split our fair share. After some brainstorming, we realized this was going to be more complicated than necessary.
“How about we just have community dinners each night?” one of us suggested.
And so it began. Whoever gets home closest to dinner time starts on roasting butternut squash, or boiling water for quinoa, or chopping fresh bell peppers for personal pizzas. We all eventually join as we come home after a long day at school or work, sharing the prep, clean up, and most importantly, the meal, together.
Yes, it does take some communication. We try and tell each other approximately what time we will be home, knowing that dinner will be being made for all of us. We talk about what we want to eat at the beginning of the week, compiling a loose menu for the 7 days before we get our next box of food. One person pays for the box each week via credit card, and we then pay them the appropriate amount in cash.
All in all, it’s very minimal work for a significant, unexpected reward: the joy of community meals each night. It’s great to come together at least for that short time during the evening to talk, laugh and enter into a communal food coma. It’s also less cooking and clean-up, as many hands make for light work in the kitchen. It really feels like a “family dinner” each night, something I missed once I came to college.
And all those benefits I mentioned in the beginning? We get those too. I haven’t gotten sick once since starting to eat farm-fresh food on a regular basis. My food budget is cheaper. Finally, my conscience is a lot lighter knowing exactly where my food comes from; I’m not supporting unknown monoculture farms that use a host of pesticides and exploit laborers to make their bell peppers the perfect yellow they are on the shelf.
I like to think that the community is not just supporting local agriculture by subscribing to a CSA, but that agriculture is also supporting our communities through options for farm-fresh food, whether it be all of Santa Cruz county, the city of Santa Cruz or simply just my housemates and myself.
For more information on CSAs, visit here.