local food community

How to CSA

If you’re nervous about joining a CSA because you think it’ll be hard to work into your family’s budget and meal planning, never fear: it doesn’t have to be! Eating nutritious, fresh food from traceable nearby sources is good for you, your family, and your community, and it’s not necessarily a strain on your wallet.

Here are 4 basics of our family’s strategy to reduce waste and eat fresh, healthy meals:

Plan ahead after delivery day
Once I started getting most of our groceries locally, I changed my meal-planning time from the more traditional Sunday night, to Thursday night, after my subscription arrives. If you don’t change your planning strategy, you’ll be stuck with produce that you didn’t know you’d get festering in the crisper drawer while you eat the things you got at the grocery store instead. Since we get meat, chickens, eggs, dairy, bread, and produce delivered, I plan our menus around how the proteins will best complement the veggies, and my grocery store list contains pantry-stockers, a few convenience items, and ingredients to supply our baking habit. I supplement with whatever I’ve preserved earlier in the season and with stockpiled meat from the freezer to round out the menus. It’s important to me to balance the nutrition, flavor, and texture of meals, and it’s easy with a regular supply of fresh ingredients!

Eat seasonally
I’ve gotten a lot of joy in cooking and eating with the seasons both at home and professionally. Instead of eating sub-par produce from who-knows-where whenever I want, I eat what comes from here, when it’s harvested. In our four-season climate here in southwestern PA, we get a lot of agricultural variety throughout the year: the best tomatoes (really- the best), wide varieties of salad and cooking greens, squash forever and ever, prolific herbs, foraged and hunted foods, sweet grass for our dairy and beef cows, amazing apples, and, is there anything better than the first harvests of asparagus and strawberries in spring?

Granted, there are things we can’t grow here (coffee, chocolate, tea, olives, citrus, avocados, etc). For those “provencal” items that are unique to their climate, we try to source them from local or transparent sources.

Assume the budget amount
Participating in a CSA doesn’t have to throw off your budget! In fact, eating seasonally means eating cheaper, since we aren’t paying for large shipping costs behind each item. If you plan your weekly trip after your delivery arrives, you can know what you’ve already spent on your groceries, and what you’ve already got, and round out your pantry with what you need outside of the box contents. If you do your shopping trip ahead of your delivery, you’ll over- or under-buy and your budget will be off kilter.

Also, budgets are important, but no household lives in a vacuum. We all affect and are affected by our surrounding community, and our financial choices are a major part of that. If we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars within our local economic base, even if that amount is a little higher than what we’d spend at a multinational source, our investment comes back around to us in other ways, through richer products and experiences, meaningful jobs, and return investment in the community. Sometimes (but not always) the cheapest option can also be the emptiest option. Personally, I’m happy to spend a little more on products and services from hard-working local people and a little less in some other budget area (in fact, we are some of those hard-working people! Between the two of us who work Kohser Farms CSA, our households work on or at 6 different places besides home that are local and community-enriching, so we know first-hand!)

Of course, there’s always the last-minute grocery store run, or the unexpected hospitality needs, which brings me to my next and most freeing strategy…

Plan for flexibility
My life got way easier when I started making a fluid menu plan. I write down five or six meals at a time, but rarely assign them to a certain day. At least one of them can be easily doubled or just made bigger to allow for company.

Our weekIMG_3669s are insanely busy, and running a business sometimes causes disruptions in what might otherwise have been a “normal” day. We need the freedom to switch our plans or push something off until later. To allow for flexibility, we try to keep around a couple of freezer meals ready for the oven or crockpot, and we plan on an occasional pizza or burrito fallback (and we don’t beat ourselves up about it).

When it comes to produce, I try to plan on using up the most tender and susceptible produce first, and allow the storage items to … store.
If it looks like we won’t get to something before it goes bad, I try to preserve it quickly while I’m already in the kitchen doing other tasks (my go-to method for small amounts is freezing). If there’s something in the box I know we won’t eat, I’ll trade it with another CSA member (I’ve got a very happy beets-for-eggplant understanding with a neighbor) or give it to someone who will enjoy it.

My family has been eating local (and I’ve been sourcing local food at my cafe) since we settled here and found the sources (and I’m thrilled to work with Chip now, doing this), and I don’t see it as a complication to our family rhythm. Rather, it’s an opportunity to expand our culinary horizons, meet and understand our food sources, learn how to cook, preserve, and to reduce waste, and eat really, really good food!

Ready to join us?

 

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Winter Subscriptions

Although fruit subscriptions have now ended, we still have a few weeks left of height-of-the-season veggies to enjoy fresh or preserve. I just pickled those radishes we got last week, and I’m thinking of doing a greens gratin with the beet and turnip greens (anybody have a recipe they suggest?) Apples got turned into my favorite version of apple pie EVER (that link is to an adapted version of the original from Cook’s Illustrated). What are you all doing with your goodies?Winter

As the weather is starting to cool off a little, and the trees are just barely turning,

now’s the time to sign up for our cool-season subscription!

The winter boxes will supply us all winter long with hardy veggies and greens, storage crops, apples, eggs, bread, honey, frozen summer veggies, baked treats perfect for school lunches or snacking (like granola bars, pumpkin chocolate chip bars, apple butter oatmeal cookies, etc), prepared items like peanut butter, hummus, pickles, and jellies, and cozy drinks like homemade hot cocoa mix with (yes) homemade marshmallows, cider, and more!

And of course, these items are all locally grown, gathered, produced, and baked right here! This is a great way to experience the richness of what our region has to offer.

Our winter subscription will deliver to your desired dropoff location every other week starting November 5, and each box will be $25. And yes, you can sign up now, even if you’re new to Kohser Farms!

Our meat, poultry, and other subscriptions are still available, but will deliver every other week instead of weekly. At each delivery, you’ll get as much as you would have gotten over two weeks in the summer.

Also, keep an eye out for our events and specials, like monthly homemade soup sales, meal kits, seasonal decor, Thanksgiving turkeys and pumpkin pies, and our 1/2 steer sale. We’ll announce them via email, social media, word of mouth, carrier pigeon, and whatever else people are doing these days to communicate.

Friends

photo credit Sally Maxson

photo credit Sally Maxson

Share your enjoyment of fresh local food with your friends and family! This season, if you refer a friend to our program, you’ll get a free loaf of bread with your next order! Upon signing up, they’ll be able to let us know who you are.

Also, remember to follow us on twitter and like us on facebook!