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It has never been more important to support our farmers and a CSA is a great way to do just that. Mike Geller, owner of Mike’s Organic, a farm-to-home delivery service in Connecticut has been connecting consumers to farmers through CSAs for 10+ years and that includes the queen herself: Martha Stewart. Stewart has raved about his farm-fresh food and the sweet corn he sources, plus his turkeys. She gets her Thanksgiving turkey from him every year!
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Below, Geller shares his tips on how to maximize your CSA experience, what to consider if you’re thinking about signing up for one this season and how to channel your inner Martha when using up all those summer veggies.
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) connects consumers and farmers through a share of produce that changes on a weekly basis, offering you the opportunity to eat with the seasons and support small local farms in the process. Typically CSAs will include a variety of vegetables (and sometimes fruit) that changes weekly depending upon what the farmer/farmers are picking.
As a general rule, I live by the adage “Know thy Farmer.” This applies to signing up for a CSA as well. If you have some information on the farm, what types of crops they grow and what their practices are, it will allow you to make a more informed decision about signing up.
For instance if the farm grows lots of greens (kale, collards, chard) and you are not a big fan of those items you might want to look for a different farm or speak with the farmer about the possibility of modifying your share (hold the kale, extra carrots please).
Related: 20 Recipes for Your Farmers’ Market Finds
Many people jump into the CSA world with both feet, which I admire. It’s so great to spend some of your food dollars supporting the local economy and the people who care about you, your family and the environment.
However, all CSAs are not created equal, just as all farmers are different. You must know your family and if the model will work for you. Have small kids? Then maybe you should look for a CSA that includes fruit or has a fruit share option. Don’t love to cook? Then a CSA might be difficult for you, since the idea is to get fresh items from the farm that you have to prepare.
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Farming practices are another consideration. If you feel very strongly that you only want organic produce then you might be limited to certain farms. It’s really important to have that conversation with the farmer before you make a decision as there are so many incredible farmers that are not “certified” organic but have excellent practices that are just as good or sometimes better.
At Mike’s Organic we work with lots of different farmers to make sure that the share is balanced, fresh and offers a few surprising items each season (think bok choy, kiwi berries, kohlrabi and husk cherries) while at the same time includes lots of produce that are guaranteed winners for most everyone (mini cukes, sun gold cherry tomatoes, donut peaches, strawberries, for example).
If there’s ever a time to give a CSA a chance, it’s now!
First and foremost, our farmers need us. As many farms rely significantly on business from restaurants and other sources, the pandemic was tough on farms, like many in the food industry. A great way to support our farms right now is through signing up for a CSA—beyond providing you with local and seasonal food throughout the entire summer and fall, it guarantees many small farmers a source of revenue throughout the growing season.
Also, so many of us are home cooking and a CSA allows you to be creative and introduce new things to your family!
The best advice I can give about CSAs is that if you take care of your produce, it will take care of you. It’s so fresh when you get it, and if you just give it a little love it will give a whole lot back.
Some easy tips are:
Related: The Best Farmers’ Market Pizza
As the season goes on you may search for different ways to prepare your produce. One of my go-to methods is to take any of my leafy cooking greens like kale, collards or chard and have them for breakfast!
I like to sauté some fresh garlic in some good olive oil (some chili flakes too if i’m feeling spicy), chiffonade the greens, add them to the garlic and oil, add a little water and steam until tender.
Then I pop the mixture right into a little bowl and in the same pan cook two eggs sunny side up. Slide those babies on top of the cooked greens and you have what I like to call a “Farmer’s Breakfast.” You won’t believe how much energy you have and you’re getting your greens first thing in the morning!
A few more CSA-inspired recipes I love:
To sign up for Mike’s Organic seasonal packages, CSA boxes and weekly deliveries of local+organic produce, meats, fish, eggs and more, visit mikesorganic.com.
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