Farm Co-ops and CSA's

by Maria on September 28, 2010

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It's Tuesday, and that means right now I'm day dreaming about the freshly-picked fruits and vegetables that I will get in my farm share this afternoon. For the past couple of years I have belonged to the Farm Direct Co-op, a fruit and vegetable cooperative on the Northshore of Massachusetts. 

Similar to CSA (community supported agriculture) shares, co-ops and CSA's have been growing in popularity in recent years as people recognize the benefits of eating more locally grown food. Co-ops and CSA farm shares support local farmers, promote the consumption of locally grown foods, feature mainly organic produce, and introduce your family to a variety of vegetables and fruits that you might not otherwise have tried. In addition, since the produce is usually harvested the same day you pick it up, it's much more flavorful than anything on the supermarket shelves and contains a higher vitamin content too. Getting an abundant supply of farm-fresh vegetables and fruits every week also encourages you to eat that recommended minimum of five servings a day!

The catch, of course, is that you don't know exactly what you will be getting. This can be hard for a planner like myself, but I have grown to enjoy the challenge of incorporating my weekly vegetable share into my already-planned weekly meals. You can do an array of side dishes with the vegetables, and I often leave room in my planning for one or two special dishes based that will be base on the weekly farm share ingredients.

For example, the photo above (a picture of last week's share) shows a generous bunch of Swiss Chard, a popular item throughout the growing season here in New England. Fortunately, it keeps well in the refrigerator for several days, and, when the cook is ready, can be used in a variety of dishes, such as Swiss Chard Lasagne (one of my favorites), Minestrone Soup, or Penne with Leafy Greens

My co-op provides us with weekly shares starting the first week of June and lasting through mid-October. After that there is even an optional extended season. Plus you can order bulk items of autumn favorites such as squash and root vegetables. You can choose from a family or single size fruit and/or vegetable share. A single share of each has proven to be plenty for my family with 2 adults and 2 young kids, but I think that next year we may go up to the family sized fruit share, as fruit is something my kids just can't seem to get enough of. Maybe I will take the challenge of increasing the vegetable one too, we will see.

In addition to fruits and vegetables you can also sign up for shares of locally produced cheese, herbs, and bread. Occasionally we even get local eggs, which is always a real treat. 

To find out if there is a co-op or CSA near you go to Even if the current sign-up's are for next spring, it's good to get on top of it now, since there are often wait lists. And you never know, maybe there will be an opening for you sooner than you think. 


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