"I joined a CSA," my father told me over a year ago. He lives in upstate New York and with him, anything is possible.
"What's a CSA?" I asked, thinking: Cult Sustained America? Career Society Artists?
"I don't know," he answered. "Agriculture ***image2***something. It's a farm thing."
A farm thing? My father? The Brooklyn-born-and-raised water-color painter?
A few months later I visited him and joined him to pick up "his share" one day. It sounded dicey. Some kind of hippie thing. But I was wrong.
His share consisted of beets and arugula, tiny purple potatoes, sprouts, a jar of honey, some fresh eggs and a bag of apples and pears. "And this is nothing compared to my summer shares," he said proudly, as if he'd grown the stuff himself. I vowed to find something ***image1***similar in Santa Fe when I returned.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it's a way to support small family farms. Joining a CSA means buying "shares." Shares translate into crops, picked up perhaps once a week. One share is usually enough for a family of three or four. You can pay all at once or, in the case of the one I belong to (and probably all of them) you can pay in two payments.
Most of us talk about buying local, buying organic, helping our small farms, making a difference. This is a great way. Family Farms Cooperative's Fresh Produce Club, the CSA I belong to, is a co-op of family farms from the Northern New Mexico area. If you join early, like mid-winter or early spring, then the farmers: 1) have some money to buy seeds to grow their crops, and 2) know they can get rid of them-to you! Another nice thing about it is that you actually meet the farmers, and yes, ***image3***you can do that at the Farmer's Market (and should!), but this is a way to help the farmers sooner and more consistently.
For example, one Thursday I set out to Maclovia Street to pick up my share of veggies. The sun is setting and I'm tired. Set up at the back of an empty parking lot is the farm stand. An awning ***image4***covers the tables of baskets and a couple of people are chatting with the woman checking off our names.
We all greet one another and look over the produce.
"Three eggplant today," the woman tells me, pointing to a deep basket full of white, purple and streaked eggplant. "Carrots…" She goes through all the baskets-letting me know how many, how much. At the far end of the table is the week's newsletter, with recipes for our haul and information about the Winter Club, which they are just ***image5***starting this year.
I know the woman at the desk, the woman and her kids pulling out. I know where all my vegetables and fruit are from. I easily can find out how they were grown. I can buy organic meat and fresh honey, eggs. My favorite part (besides the eating) is how much I feel as though I am part of a community of people who care. People who care about the environment and about good food. People who care about a local economy and people who are willing to do something. It may just be a little thing in the scheme of things-but these days, every little bit counts.