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Eat Seasonal, Balance your Elements, and Support our Local Farmers All At Once: CSA Options

Old town farmer's market

It’s that time of year again…time to start thinking about which CSA  you’re going to sign up with this year.  As promised, I’m sending out a list this week of our local CSAs.

What?!  You’re weren’t PLANNING on doing a CSA?  Well let’s see if I can change your mind!

For those of you who don’t know what CSA is, it stands for CommunitySupported Agriculture, and it’s sweeping the nation! When you sign up for a CSA, you buy a “share” from your choice of local farms, and each week throughout the entire growing season, you get to pick up a beautiful bin of produce that was typically just picked that day. Because organic farmers take on an enormous financial risk (bad weather, no government subsidies that are dolled out to large scale conventional farmers, etc), as shareholders we share the economic risk with them, which allows them to continue growing our high quality foods for us.  The CSA share system is the perfect way for them to have a guarantee at the start of the growing season that they should do it again another year. When there’s a bumper crop, we get overflowing bins of surplus…when hail destroys some crops, then they don’t show up in our box.

The first CSA I ever participated in was the “Homeless Garden Project” in Santa Cruz, California.  Resting on the cliffs right above the ocean, this little farm hired homeless interns who were in need of acquiring life skills and employment, and produced some of the most magnificent veggies, fruits, and flowers.  Each Friday, we would ride our cruisers with their little baskets out to the farm, and arrive home overflowing with colorful orbs, stalks, and minarets of various (and sometimes unknown!) veggies and flowers.  I’ll never forget the time the purple kohlrabi peered out from the bottom of my bag at me…its alien slits of eyes imploring me to fall in love with it.

And that I did…

In fact, it was that humble kohlrabi that played a huge part in my growing love of veggies, for from that day forward, gone was my fear of foreign foods, as I anticipated the arrival of new veggie friends with excitement.

A CSA can play a big part in exposing us to new favorite foods that we might otherwise never try.

Not only does being a share member encourage you to eat more fresh foods (after all, you’d better eat what you’ve got ’cause in a handful of days, another bunch will arrive!), but it’s a great way to feel a part of your community. Everyone is without fail smiling as they go to pick up their share box, eager to see the surprises that await them each week — we all feel like we’re in on something good together…a secret insider club…the “good life”…  :-)

In terms of Chinese medicine, eating with the seasons by focusing on what’s fresh in the field that day, is a great way to stay balanced and in tune with the forces of nature and our bodies. Once you begin to eat what grew locally, the change becomes so intuitive that adapting is the natural outcome. I find that I’m just not drawn to, say, asparagus in winter…unless I’ve harvested or preserved it myself and have that special connection of knowingness with it.  Something about “fresh” food shipped in from thousands of miles away where it’s a different season, just starts to feel… disturbing.

So here is the list of our choices for CSAs, with a few notes along with the ones I’ve had personal experience with.  (If I don’t say much after some of them it doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome…it just means I haven’t yet had personal experience with their awesomeness!) :

(2018 update: many of these are no longer offering CSAs. I recommend you do a search for CSA Fort Collins to find the most up to date options)

Happy Heart Farms : Shares include both veggies and fruits.

  • Shire Farm: Resting right along the Spring Creek trail just south of Prospect, members enjoy prepared food when they go to pick up their share …a great way to get ideas for what to do with your veggies! I happened to visit once on a pick-up day, and the members were leisurely hanging out together, enjoying food and the gorgeous summer day under the shade of trees along the creek.  You can ride the bike trial right up to their little painted gathering caboose.  Nice! :-) Shares include fruit.
  • Cresset Community Farm: Located in Windsor, and offer separate bread, beef, mushroom, raw cheese (from Windsor Dairy), and fruit shares.  Veggie shares include melons, as well as fermented foods! Yay!
  • Fossil Creek Farm : Don’t know whether shares include fruit.
  • Boyle’s Family Farm : Share’s include “small fruits”. They are in Weld County. Couldn’t really tell from their website if they deliver shares into Fort Collins.
  • Green Buffalo Food : A spanking new company this year, perfect for the busy person who  wants food to just show up at their front door…for they deliver right to your home!  Also, you get to choose which foods you get in your share each week.  Don’t like zucchini or eggplant?  It won’t show up in your box.  Be sure to pick the “local food only” option for your share.  Ho contracts with several local farms, probably many who are listed here, to provide you with your local produce.  He is a distributor, not a farmer.
  • Monroe Organic Farm : The oldest organic farm in our area! Fruit is available, although I can’t tell if it’s included in the regular share.  Also available are beef, pork, eggs, and honey.
  • Windsor Dairy :  I LOOOOOOVE my Windsor Dairy RAW milk share! I have a 1/2 share, which means I get to go twice per month and get a gallon of milk, from which I make my own mozzarella, ricotta, creme fraiche, sour cream, buttermilk, and this summer, ICE CREAM! :-)  Also, in their farm store I can pick up eggs, pork, beef, lamb, their pre-made cheeses, and even organic local whole wheat flour! The drive to the farm is enjoyable, and every so often I just get out and visit with the adorable farm animals.  Great for families with little ones!
  • Grant Farms : Shares include only veggies, although separate fruit, meat, bread, mushroom, and egg shares are available.  They are the largest organic farm in FC, shipping all over the US. Although I have huge respect for them, have LOVED my share and all they do in and for our community, last year I did wonder if maybe their large grocery orders and farmer’s markets were getting choice pick…

If we’re going to go to the huge effort of trying to get more veggies into our diets, as I know we all are, then it may as well be veggies that are packed with the most nutrients possible…which means local and organic is the only way to go.

Soooo…to the growing season!

Viva la…veggies!



Tags: local foods