This crazy weather seems to be changing from week to week, but officially spring has begun. I can see it in the new leaves on my fig tree and in the blossoms on the azalea bushes—not to mention the CSA sign-up forms on all of the local farm websites.
Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) simplifies buying local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. The premise is that you choose the farm, buy a “share”, and then pick up a box of farm fresh food each week throughout the growing season. Sounds simple enough, right? It is! The most difficult decision you have to make is which farm to choose. Fortunately for us in Charleston, we have a huge, wonderful selection to choose from.
Since the contents of the CSA boxes can vary greatly from farm to farm, when looking for a CSA, there are several issues to consider. The first is portion size. Practically every farm offers different options for how large a share you’ll want to purchase—depending on how large your family is or just how darn much you love to eat fresh veggies.
The different types of vegetables you would like to purchase can also vary. Be sure to check out many different websites and to also talk to the farmers about what they plan on planting this season to make sure their crops match your palate. However, do keep in mind that joining a CSA should be a bit of a culinary adventure. A large part of a CSA is creating a community between farmers and their patrons. It’s also about learning more about growing seasons and what can be grown here locally. While avocados may not be a part of a South Carolina CSA, you can be sure that there are many other great vegetables and fruits that could become your new favorite. This exploration of new produce is made easier because many of the farms offer plenty of recipes to help you expand your palate. CSA’s began strictly as farm-raised produce, but they are not as limited now. Many farmers have expanded their selections to include meats, jams and jellies, eggs, even flowers and wine! The price for a CSA can seem high, but farmers work hard to make sure the price is comparable to or lower than what you would pay throughout the growing season at a grocery store. Resist succumbing to sticker shock; remember that this cost covers months of produce and other goodies with unparalleled freshness!
One last component to think about when choosing a CSA is the pick-up point for your food. A few farms will actually deliver to your home, but most choose drop-off points from where you are responsible for picking up your box. Make sure your chosen farm has a convenient drop-off/ pick-up location for your routine and commute.
In the Lowcountry, farms are spread from Awendaw to Wadmalaw. Here is a brief list of farms that offer CSA’s to get you started: