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Jumping back in the pool: CSA the second time around

Last year, Heather and I decided to subscribe to the Gathering Together Farm Community Supported Agriculture program without a lot of forethought. At the time when we signed up last spring, we were fairly new on our green journey, excitedly trying new things. Joining a CSA seemed like the right thing to do. We'd split a full box and pick it up weekly at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market. What we found was that being in the CSA had its highs and lows. So there was much discussion this year on whether we would do it again. Gathering Together Farm lets last year's subscribers enroll before opening it to the general public. Although we went down the wire on our decision, ultimately we decided to go for it. There's no question that the CSA produce we ate last summer was the tastiest, healthiest we had ever had. There was a lovely feeling of community in meeting each weekend at our local farmer's market, running into old friends, meeting new ones. But there was also the frustration of having onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and squash coming out of our ears at times. We felt like Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up with the chocolates in that famous assembly line episode.

But I do think we learned some important lessons. The most valuable: prep and freeze in small batches for the winter. Michelle told us that she'd take her box home every Sunday (our designated pickup day) and chop, prep and freeze everything she didn't think her family would eat that week. What a revelation. I had got myself all hyped to do big canning jobs, but when it came down to it, really didn't have the time or energy to do that. When I tried Michelle's approach and chopped and froze small portions of produce, it worked. I can't tell you how happy I've been to pop a chopped pepper out of the freezer and throw it into a curry I'm making for dinner.

The other thing we learned is that we have to be ready. We had grand visions of preserving fresh berries by dehydration. But come berry season -- which really sneaks up on you -- we didn't have a dehydrator. We hadn't researched one. Which one was the best? Gosh, did we really want to add another appliance to our appliance-filled kitchens? Would we really use it? How would we store our dehydrated produce once we'd dried it? A case of analysis paralysis. Flash back to the scene of Lucy and Ethel. My family was buying and eating fresh berries as fast as our local farmers could grow them. Then it was melons. And the squash and tomatoes and pepper piles were piling up. So, it just never happened.

This year will be different. I'm researching that dehydrator now. So I'm excited about our next CSA season. And happy to know that we've inspired lots of friends to take that plunge, and join a CSA of their own. Are you new to joys of CSA? What are some of the valuable lessons you've learned, that you'd like to share?


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