by Annika Sampson
I’m interested in supporting local farms and farmers this year. I really want to put my money back into this community, plus I’ve always thought that eating seasonally is really inspiring. What are some of the best ways I can find local food?
Dear Local Foodie,
If you love local food, you’re certainly in the right place! Whatcom County is home to some of the most bountiful lands and seas in the country, and we’re fortunate to have folks who give their labor and love growing, harvesting, and distributing food.
It sounds like you might really enjoy a CSA, which stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. These “farm shares” are arrangements between a farmer and a customer where you typically buy a subscription to a local farm in advance of the season. The farmer uses the up-front funds for everything needed to grow the food, and, in return, the farmer delivers your weekly “share” of the harvest. You get all the seasonal eating inspiration your heart desires, and you’re really helping farmers out at a time of year when they typically don’t have as much income — a true reciprocal relationship!
Some farmers offer different payment options, including installment and sliding scale, and have different models, so check with them to learn the details. You can head to eatlocalfirst.org/csa to find a CSA that meets your needs; you can also filter by contents and delivery location as well as those who are currently accepting sign-ups. The time to sign up for farm shares/CSA is … now! Sign-up times are generally between January and April, but vary farm to farm.
CSA is one of the most powerful ways we can support our local farmers. There are benefits to the community, of course, but there are also benefits for you and your loved ones. Farms give their CSA members the very best of their produce and may even offer flowers, honey, eggs, and more. Sometimes there are even CSA for just flowers, or just meat! Produce is picked at its peak ripeness, which ensures that it has the most flavor and nutrients.
Then, of course, there’s the surprise, joy, and delight of unpacking a weekly farm share box. It puts you in touch with the seasons and is always full of treats and treasures. Many CSAs come with recipes and newsletters which explain what’s been going on and what to do with lesser-known veggies or cuts of meat. Kohlrabi doesn’t have to be mysterious — it can be a slaw!
You might also use this opportunity to brush up on food preservation techniques, since canning or dehydrating can be great ways to enjoy the bounty of summer all year long. Farm-fresh tomato sauce in January? Yes, please.
Often, a CSA will even save you money over what a similar amount of quality produce bought at a store or from a market would cost — even more so if you find a CSA with installment payments or a sliding scale. Of course, saving money is great, but what about saving time? CSA has you covered there, too. Picking up, or getting food delivered directly to you, simply takes less time than choosing, bagging, and paying for items at the store.
And of course, I would remiss if I didn’t mention an intangible but deeply important aspect of CSA — building relationships! There are few things more fulfilling and satisfying than getting to know the folks who grow your food.
I hope that helps you answer your question, Local Foodie. I’d recommend checking out eatlocalfirst.org/csa to find a CSA so you can enjoy seasonal food and support local farms!
With love and radishes,
Annika Sampson is a Sustainable Connections staff member.