Photo by Anastatia Curley
To try sweet potato and apple gratin, click here for the recipe.
I realized recently that I've gone soft, sustainable-food-wise. Sure, I shop at farmer's markets; I worked for a nonprofit that educated people about the intertwined issues of food, agriculture, and the environment. I could lecture you for hours on the various ways our country's collective diet is turning the atmosphere into a pressure cooker.
But I still don't bake my own bread or can my home-grown produce. I, er, don't actually grow any home-grown produce (in my defense, until recently I worked at an educational garden.) There are lots of food-related things I've always sort of meant to do that I haven't done yet.
So I made my list and a few resolutions, and then I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture). I've always wanted to be a member of a CSA. Even more than shopping at farmer's markets, it's a way to throw in your lot with local farmers. At the beginning of the season, you buy what's usually called a "share" in a local farm. You pay a sum of money upfront, and you get a box of vegetables usually once a week. This way, the farmer has capital at the start of the season, when it's most needed, and you have a steady source of produce. Some CSAs also require that you volunteer for a certain number of hours on the farm. Depending on the farm (or the group of farms) running the CSA, a share might just be produce, or contain milk, meat, eggs, or bread.
The thing about a CSA is that it's very possible one week (or maybe even a few weeks in a row) you'll get, say, 10 pounds of kale.
The CSA I chose is run through Enterprise Farm. I signed up for it mostly because I've been buying their produce at Davis Square Farmers' Market in Cambridge all fall, and I'd been impressed by its quality and come to like and trust the women who sold it. Their model is a little unorthodox, though: not all the produce comes from their farm. Their goal is to create a regional foodshed, so they collaborate with a group of organic farms up and down the East Coast. This means the share is not strictly local, which gave me pause. I knew, however, that I couldn't last a whole winter without fruit, and I'd rather eat an orange grown organically in Florida or Georgia than one grown conventionally in California or Chile. Maybe this is another example of how I've gone soft, but figuring out how to live sustainably involves balancing your carbon footprint, your health, your checkbook, and your quality of life, so I stand by my decision.
My share cost $700 for the season (December 1 through May 1), which entitles me to a 10-pound box of vegetables each week. It's a lot of money upfront, but it works out to about $35 each week, which is often what I spend at the farmers' market anyway. I'm splitting it with my best friend, partly because $700 is a big sum, partly because 10 pounds of vegetables is a lot of vegetables, and partly because it gives us an excuse to cook dinner together every Thursday.