Someone Else's Farm

June 04, 2011

To Renew, or Not to Renew?

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , — M @ 15:01 PM

Today, I got an e-mail from the CSA farm, letting us know that the signup deadline for this year’s CSA is next Wednesday. The e-mail specifically requested that those who were not renewing give their reasons. Below is what I sent them:

We will not be signing up for the CSA this year. This was not an easy decision for us. Every week, we got a collection of produce, mostly of very high quality. In particular, the radishes we got early in the season were superb. Nonetheless, we had issues.
One issue we faced was the inability to stop our share for a week or two when we went on vacation. Our family schedule revolves around the academic calendar: we take most of our vacations during the summer, when my husband is not teaching and we can find a week or two free of meetings and conferences. Thus, we travel during the CSA season. Because we could not put a hold on our share, we’d have to find a neighbor who wanted our share for the weeks we were gone. And more than once we had to hurry back from somewhere in order to make sure we got our produce before the drop point closed for the night. The ability to cancel our share ahead of time, for a week or two when we knew we’d be away, would have made a tremendous difference to our stress level.

Another issue we faced was that of quantity and timing. We are a family of two. The amount of produce we’d get each week was such that we had more vegetables than we were capable of eating before the next pickup. Unfortunately, some of what we’d get would not keep for more than a couple of days. This meant that we’d either have to wait to meal-plan for the week until we picked up our produce and made sure that what we got matched the list in the newsletter, or we’d have to make sure we blanched and froze, or otherwise preserved, the more fragile items each week so that they wouldn’t go bad before we got to them. About halfway into the summer, it seemed like we had a lifetime supply of kale in the freezer. Perhaps we would have been better off with a twice-weekly pickup, to ease the time factor, but I recognize this isn’t practical for the farm. Or maybe it would have been better if we could have split our share with another family, to only get half as much produce each week, or to only get our part of the share every other week.

We also felt somewhat guilty each week walking through our community’s farmer’s market after picking up our share, and realizing that we’d have to tell some of our other favorite farmers that we weren’t going to buy anything that week. This is our eighth summer here, and over the years we’ve gotten to know the vendors at the market, and figure out where we like to get corn, or who has the good tomatoes, or which stand has our favorite peaches. But with the produce from the share, we’d realize that because we had a lot of greens, we probably wouldn’t need any corn that week; the radishes we got in our share dictated a meal or two which precluded eating the fresh shelling beans which show up briefly early each summer, so we couldn’t buy any beans. I hated to have to walk on by, knowing that anything we bought would mean having more food in the house than we could possibly eat. I don’t think we bought a single peach last summer, because we had already paid for too much other stuff in the share. While we strongly believe in buying local food, we also believe in supporting as many farmers as we can, and the CSA made it difficult for us to do that last year.

Which brings up probably the biggest point: variety, or varieties. I understand that CSAs around the world like to include kale and other greens, probably because they are easy to grow and take up lots of space in a delivery box or tote so that each week’s share looks bountiful rather than skimpy. While I enjoy eating greens once in a while, and have many different preparations from many different cuisines around the world, after the first couple of months I felt like we had greens coming out our ears, and got to the point where I wouldn’t even bring the greens from our share home, but instead gave them away or donated them to the soup kitchen. And after a while, we even got sick of radishes. We are both very good and creative cooks, but over last summer, we both realized that we prefer to plan our meals around what we feel like cooking, not necessarily around what we got in the share this week and needs to be used in the next two days before it goes bad.

Thus, we cannot sign up for the CSA this year in good faith. While we appreciate that one is available, we tried it last year and discovered that it just doesn’t work for our family.

Wishing you a good growing season,

So, that’s it. We’re looking forward to this year’s market season, and being able to go back to our favorites. We may even buy the occasional bunch of kale from the CSA’s stand at the market. But in a way, the lack of commitment feels like a relief, to know that I won’t have to deal with a seemingly never-ending parade of greens unless I specifically want to.

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