LocalHarvest Newsletter, January 25, 2011

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

I spent the weekend thinking about what motivates people to join CSAs. 'Tis the sign-up season, after all, and tens of thousands of you are coming to LocalHarvest to look for a CSA farm near you. Researchers say that most people joining a CSA anticipate that their dinner menus will change as a result, and they are up for the challenge. "Veggies we've never heard of? Bring them on!" This is brave. There are few things as personal as our habitual eating patterns, and to consciously turn over some portion of the control for what you'll cook night after night for a some months is a big deal.

Often it goes swimmingly. I can not tell you how many times I have heard people compare opening their weekly CSA box to Christmas morning. Whether it's the freshness and flavor of the food, the feeling of belonging to a farm, the knowledge that their children are eating better, the satisfaction of eating locally, or all of the above, many people simply love being part of a CSA.

And it's not for everyone. Many CSAs lose 10-40% of their members at year's end. For some members the necessary culinary creativity becomes a burden instead of a joy. Others find they don't actually cook as much as they thought, or hoped to. Still others get a bad case of greens fatigue. For all of us interested in seeing the CSA movement thrive, it is as important to pay attention to the rationale of people who decide not to re-join a CSA as it is to take in the praise of the enthusiasts.

If CSAs are to keep up their impressive growth trajectory, farms will need to attract more and more "mainstream eaters". That, in turn, requires CSA farmers and CSA members to work together to find the right balance of unfamiliar items and old standbys, the right quantity of food so members don't waste, and where feasible, giving members some level of choice.

We would love to hear about your experiences with CSA. If you've been a CSA member for years, what do you like best about it? If you tried CSA but decided not to join again, what was your reason? For both groups, what do you wish you'd have known about CSA before you joined? If you'd like to share your thoughts, please do so here.

We saw a great little video this month called, "Community Supported Agriculture: What to expect when you join a farm." I highly recommend it for all who are considering joining a CSA for the first time. Great advice, straight from CSA farmers themselves!

As always, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

Are you in? If this is your year to try a CSA, you can find one near you.

As every gardener knows, this is a great time of year to plan your spring garden and order your seeds. Whether you're looking for your old favorite varieties or something new and different for this year's garden, our farmers have great things to offer. Over 1500 varieties at last count, from seed growers all over the country.

Sometimes a new handwork project is just the thing for the deep winter blues. We sell an array of beautiful yarns, fleece, and roving, all from our members' farms.

How Can You Tell if It's Real Food?

As my Aunt Darlene always says, "You've gotta have some fun!" (Thanks to Doug Hiza for sharing this one with us.)


Food from the Farm: The Many Benefits of Roasted Chicken

In talking with a few farmers about their CSA membership, I have several times heard the observation that some members just don't know how to cook. This could certainly be a problem, with a dozen different vegetables coming your way every week. I am a believer, with the late, great food writer Laurie Colwin, that everyone should have a couple of meals that they know how to prepare well. These need not amaze anyone with their creativity; they should be good, solid meals that satisfy.