Thursday, April 14, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture: A Love Affair

This is the not the best picture I've ever taken, but I sure am happy with it.  Why?

Because it's the first salad of the new growing season for our CSA.  I first read about Community Supported Agriculture in Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.  The gist of the book was to eat food, not too much, mostly plants.  Of "food", he was addressing issues with overly processed, packaged foods.  The "not too much" deals with our out of control portions, and "mostly plants" means just what it says, with an emphasis on eating more leafy greens.  My practice of these rules may not always live up to my practice (umm, that bowl of salad?  All mine.  So, leaves?  Check.  Portion?  Umm...), but I do keep them in mind.  And I believe he's got it right.  He also talks about eating seasonally and eating locally, and it's in that portion of the book that he talks about CSAs.  

I went to a website to locate local CSAs, expecting that there would be none in my corner of Alabama.  (This would have been Spring of 2009.)  Much to my happiness, there was a farm!  In Coker, Alabama!  That did Community Supported Agriculture!  (For those of you who don't know and won't google, Coker is just outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where we were living at the time.)  I emailed them, giddy at the prospect of engaging in this whole thing.  Disappointment arrived in the form of an "I'm sorry, all our shares have been filled for this season" and "we will put you on a list for next year if we have additional shares" email.  Devastation may be a better word.  My only chance at a CSA was gone.  I made do that summer with farmer's markets in Clanton and a brief stint with office delivery of certain vegetables via Katie Farms, also in Coker.  (If I remember correctly, a restaurant opened that wanted to use their produce, and that used much of their available supply.  We were happy for them, even if I did miss my blueberries and fresh eggs.)  

I nearly fell out of my chair the next January when I received another email from Margaret Ann at the farm about joining their CSA.  They had shares available, did we still want one, etc.  I trembled the way Edie and Bailey tremble when someone picks them up from a haircut appointment.  I eagerly filled out a form, sent in a check, and waited for mid-April to arrive.  That first pick-up was a dream.  It was just around the corner from my job at the time, and there was fresh dill.  Dill!  Everything smelled heavenly. And then there were these little bags of salad mix.  Beautiful green and purple leaves of all sorts, washed and placed into Amy sized bags.  I was in love.

The next week was when Jay and I decided to move to Birmingham full time, which meant I would be leaving my beloved job and community in Tuscaloosa.  I was excited about the move but still sad about leaving, and my biggest, most secret fear was that the CSA thing would fall through.  How would I pick up veggies from Tuscaloosa in Birmingham?  What would I do?  Turns out, they have pickups in Birmingham, too.  And one of them is maybe a mile from where I work now.  Things really do have a way of working out sometimes.

But back to the salad.  You don't get the little bags of mix every week.  You get them most often in the spring and fall, and I look forward to them each time.  (Early summer gets you different head lettuces as they've matured, and summer is just too hot down here to support much leafiness in July.)  I don't even really share them with Jay.  Most of the time I eat them at work, lovingly tearing the stems off any particularly stemmy bits.  Crumble a little feta over them and top with some Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing, and really, that's all I need.  It is perfection, and there is no salad mix out there that can compare.  I've bought some bagged mixes, even gotten some at Whole Foods.  Not the same.  Not even a little bit.  I've been missing these little baggies of goodness now for months, and just the smell of the greens nearly brought to tears to my eyes when I was preparing the bowl this evening.  Things are back as they should be, and I'm still in love.  

If you want to check out my CSA, go to their web page!  My CSA is through Snow's Bend Farm, and I can't say enough good things about them.

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