Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I love my CSA / a farm dinner / tales of a locavore

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I know that some may think it's snobby or silly to be as into "local eating" as I am. I live in an area that has certainly turned me into a food snob over the years, but my passion for whole, plant-based foods and local living goes far beyond just being another white girl with San Francisco Values.

I guess it all began years ago when I impulsively decided to join a CSA. It was February 2007, I was 24 years old, newly married and just falling into the crazy passion I have for cooking. I found a CSA (which stands for community supported agriculture) in Dixon called Eatwell Farm, talked Scott into it by saying it would save us money in the long term, and picked up my first box of fresh, local produce the next week. It was love at first sight and we've been members ever since. I love Eatwell with every ounce of my soul.

Here are some of the great things I've found about belonging to a CSA:
  • Fresh, local and seasonal produce every week of the year. Do you really know what produce is seasonal, and when, for where you live? I sure didn't. Now I do, and it makes a huge difference in taste and quality. It also makes me feel like I can really vary my menus depending on the season, and as a result I take deeper pleasure in the passing of the seasons themselves. 
  • New and varied veggies. Here is a short list of the veggies I'd never tried before I got them in my CSA box: chard, kale, green garlic, romanesco, kohlrabi, collard greens, mustard greens, fennel,  english shelling peas, celeriac, daikon radish, fava beans, leeks, turnips, tat soi, kombucha squash. And that's just a fraction -- even if I'd tried it, that didn't mean I'd cooked with it or even liked it. Given how much I am obsessed with some of these veggies now ... it's safe to say that my CSA has introduced me to several of my very favorite foods.
  • I'm forced to be responsible & creative with my cooking. I can't really afford not to plan anymore, but this is a good thing. The cost of the box means that I can't waste any,either, and when you're eating a ton of vegetables like we do, it can be tricky (at first) to figure out how to utilize everything. It's a commitment, a real one, and though it isn't for everybody, this has made me a much better cook, more inspired and creative and flexible, in every way.
  • I know where my food comes from. This has become incredibly important to me as I learned more about the industrial food complex. I want to know exactly where my food comes from, what's in it and what's not in it. I want to be able to trust that knowledge. I've gotten to visit Eatwell Farm and I get regular insight via Nigel (the owner) about what's going into our food.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a farm dinner and discussion with Nigel & Lorraine of Eatwell Farm at another organization I'm a part of, 18 Reasons. We got to eat good food from the farm and Nigel/Lorraine engaged in a dialogue with all of us about the farm, about farming in general, about GMOs and wheat and small organic farming and government. I mean, it was really informal, but very intimate and off the cuff at the same time. I felt very proud to be there as a longtime member of the CSA, and also to introduce my friend Meghan to the people/philosophy/food/way of life I've loved for so many years. 

I didn't get the chance to say it at the end of the dinner, but I was thinking it and I will say it now: joining Eatwell Farm completely changed my life for the better. I owe them so much for opening up my mind and heart to an entirely new way of thinking about food, and cooking, and my role in that process. I am a much healthier person now because I belong to a CSA. I am passionate about food issues of all types and it's safe to say I never would have gone vegan if not for the amazing produce I've been exposed to over the years. I'm a person who loves almost EVERY VEGETABLE, something inconceivable to high school me. 

I feel particularly inspired to finish this post up now, today (it's been in my drafts folder for a week) because I've just started reading Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked. It's incredible so far and I feel so inspired to talk about these issues and everything about food/cooking that inspires me. I know that not everyone knows about CSAs or the benefits of local eating or feels passionately about it -- but if you can ... I say ... get into it. I've found it an incredibly rewarding way of life, and I'm only (really) just beginning.

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