[eat] Home Grown Kansas: Wichita’s CSA
“It’s like Christmas morning!” I said to my friend Amy back in May, the day before we were to report to the Old Town farmers’ market to pick up our very first CSA share.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The concept: you pay a local farm a certain amount each week or month, and you get a selection of their produce each week. Rather than buying each item piecemeal from the farmers’ market, you just get a share of whatever the farm has available. It’s a cross between bulk buying and those “mystery grab bags” at the dollar store.
Though there are ups and downs to this method for the consumer, CSA programs are a way to make a stronger investment in a particular farm. There are many fine local vendors to choose from at Wichita’s farmers’ markets, but I was already a fan of Home Grown Kansas (a farm in northwest Wichita near Maize), so I was excited to learn that they were restarting their CSA program after a multi-year hiatus.
The cost may seem a bit daunting at first – about $100 a month – but keep in mind that you won’t be spending as much in the produce aisle as a result. Or, do what I do and split your share with a friend. This works especially well if, like Amy and I, you don’t have kids and/or just live with one other person; half a share is still plenty of food at a pretty good value.
So what do you get? The shares have varied greatly from week to week, and while some weeks have been more bountiful than others, I feel like I’m eating pretty well. Here’s just a small list of what I’ve taken home in the past 10 weeks: basil, mint, parsley, potatoes, green onions, tomatoes, sweet corn, Swiss chard, okra, collard greens, turnips, kohlrabi, thyme, peas, fennel, asparagus… you get the idea. If it’s locally grown, I’ve probably eaten it lately.
One aspect of the CSA that I really like is that it introduces me to vegetables I wouldn’t normally buy. I’m a picky shopper, usually making several rounds at the farmers’ market to determine who has the best produce at the best price, then buying a small amount from several vendors. Cabbage leaves, scallions and cantaloupe never would have made it into my bag that way, but thanks to the CSA, they’ve been great additions to my summer meals. My favorite items, though, have been “gifts” from Home Grown Kansas’ farming friends: blueberries from a farm in Southern Kansas and a jar of honey from a local apiary. I’m hoping for eggs at some point, too.
The program is full for this year, but check the Home Grown Kansas website next spring to sign up for 2011. Maybe other local farms will follow suit and start CSA programs of their own. Though it may not be the best option for everyone, CSA definitely works for me.
Are you a part of the Home Grown Kansas CSA, or have any other experience with the program? Tell us about it in the comments.