I try to tell everyone I meet about our Community Shared Agriculture basket, or CSA. A local organic farm sells "shares" in the early season, when operating costs are the highest. Once the harvest begins, members then receive a weekly or bi-weekly basket of fresh, organic, locally grown produce.
Our family split a double share with a friend, for $525 each. The baskets run 16 weeks from late June to late October.
For us to go this route, was not cheaper than if I shopped sales at the grocery store. At all. But what we were paying for ended up being a lot more than just food.
Firstly, it built up a certain amount of anticipation, looking forward to when the snow would melt, and the green would start to appear.
I guess so far the biggest payout that I feel is the interest, and engagement to what it is I am eating. Every week there's a sense of anticipation, "What am I going to be getting this week?? How on earth am I going to cook with this? What IS this?!" Sometimes I have to admit, I am a little overwhelmed at that amount of unfamiliar things I am receiving. Some of it wouldn't my first choice to cook with-but all of it builds interest.
Whenever we pick up our basket, or our friends drop them off, I'm on the internet looking up the best way to cook a hakurai turnip, and requesting recipes for kale and swiss chard. My cooking comfort levels are stretched and tested as we try to use up what we've received in the tastiest way possible. The farm we have the basket from, Rainbow Heritage Gardens, is excellent at using "heritage" or "heirloom" varieties. Purple peppers and yellow tomatoes are not something you see all the time at the grocery store, but they grow and flourish in the Ottawa valley.
Another really important factor for us, is having the chance to enjoy all local foods. When we see spinach readily in the grocery store in February, it's easy to forget that it's grown over 1000 miles away, and has to be transported by tractor trailer all that distance to show up on our plates. You have to wonder what that does to the nutrition of our food, not to mention the taste. I wanted to know what local looked like, and of course, tasted like.
For a family of 2 and a toddler, it's a lot of vegetables. I get a thrill of excitement though every time I see my one year old happily bite into farm fresh berries, or bake a sweet cinnamon loaf made moist and delicious with zucchini.
I think it's so easy for people to become disconnected to what we are eating. We forget that there is sweat and work that goes into every spinach leaf and cherry tomato, and that we are so blessed to live in a country with plentiful harvests.
The real payout in investment for me was a reconnected to the food I eat, and the people who grow it.