CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Since I’ve started this journey I have seen several different interpretations of this concept because there isn’t one hard and fast standardized model. Different communities and different farms do it slightly differently. There is definitely a common thread though and that is this: community supported agriculture is a system where the community that benefits from the food grown, also directly supports it. This can be small urban gardens or farms that have members who get a share of whatever the garden or farm produces or it can be more of a cooperative where a number of different local farms participate and members get a share of different items from different farms. The idea however, is always the same, to support local growers and give people direct access to local fresh food.
I originally chose a CSA because I wanted a variety of fresh, local, organic and sustainable produce delivered to my house. A friend of mine was a member of our local CSA and I would see her bi-weekly box overflowing with exotic greens and fruits and I wanted in!! I love to cook and I love to eat veggies but I find the produce section of my local grocery store uninspiring and I also want to know that what I’m getting isn’t covered in pesticide or genetically modified or shipped from thousands of miles away. The CSA delivered all of that to my door.
I have been a CSA member (although I have switched CSAs) for almost 3 years. I continue to do it because I love the quality of the food I get, I love supporting local growers, I love learning about my community through my CSA, I love knowing that what I’m eating doesn’t hurt the environment and I also love the challenge of having to figure out how to prepare the ingredients each week.
Is it more expensive than buying the same items at the local conventional grocery store? Yes, a lot more expensive. $47/box to be exact. It’s also more expensive than going to the farmer’s market each week. But it works for my lifestyle and my values. The conventional grocery doesn’t always have organic options and they very rarely have many local AND organic options so there’s no comparison for me there. I work full time, write this blog, have a podcast, am a student at the Permaculture Academy and also have a dog and a life in general. I’m busy just like the rest of you! So making a trip out to the farmer’s market, finding parking (I live in Los Angeles), shopping and then heading back is a lot of my precious time. Having the same, or even better, quality ingredients delivered to my door is the only reason I am so consistent with my choices and that’s worth every penny to me.
That being said, I save a ton of money in other ways by always having high quality food delivered to my house. I eat out WAY less which really adds up. There’s less driving around so less money spent on gas and also less opportunities for impulse buys that I don’t actually need. There’s also the intangible value of my time. I have more time to spend on myself and with people I love. I have more time to relax, to meditate, to read, to catch up with family and friends (over a meal cooked from my CSA), to do the things that really make me happy. I’m not sure I can put a price on that.
For some people this price point is just way too high and I get that. This isn’t for everyone. However, I meet people everyday who are working hard to make sure that this sort of quality food is in fact accessible to everyone regardless of income and I take comfort in that.
Maybe, maybe not! If your cooking skills are limited to boiling water to make tea then this may be an overwhelming challenge that you will not enjoy or benefit from. Unless you are committed to the project of teaching yourself how to cook no matter what, I would go another route. I have been cooking for a long time and I really enjoy it so it’s extremely easy for me to look at a box full of random raw fruits and veggies and see a million different meal options. I also will eat anything. There are very very few foods on Earth that I don’t like so this also makes getting a CSA box good for me. If you have a million food allergies or are on a very special diet, this may not be for you.
However, this is for you if you have a busy life, love to eat local, organic, sustainable food, love to cook, can eat almost anything and already spend about $200 – $300 on produce a month.
Local Harvest has a great search tool that allows you to find CSA programs and farmer’s markets in your area. It is not comprehensive or exhaustive so if you don’t find what you are looking for, another place to look is at your local Farmer’s Market. Ask around to find out if any of the farms that sell at the market have CSA programs. It’s also a good idea to ask your neighbors since most of these programs are hyper local and they might not serve both sides of town if you live in a big one. And if that yields no results there’s always the Yelp and the Google.
I learned to cook from observation, from reading cookbooks and lots of tragically hilarious trial and error. The majority of the meals I ate growing up were home cooked. We went out to eat for special occasions such as birthdays or graduations or as a special treat for no reason other than my mom was sick of cooking that week. But most of the time it was home cooking. I always assumed I’d learn how to cook because otherwise, how would I eat!? I didn’t think of it as a special skill until very recently. And since I started this blog I have really come to appreciate everything I have learned over the years by flipping through cookbooks and magazines and saying “Let me try that”. There is an art to cooking because there are so many variables. Depending on the ingredients or equipment you use you might get varying results so being able to see or feel when something is right is the most valuable skill I have. I don’t rely on cooking times or exact measurements because I have enough experience to know when it’s right. I know a lot of you reading this know what I’m talking about. Even if the only thing you know how to make is spaghetti with butter melted over it, you know when it’s done. You know when it’s right. That’s something that only experience can teach you so I encourage you to get out there and try it!
Sure, like anything, cooking takes time. How much time depends on what I’m trying to make and skill level. There are lots of things that I can make that take 20 minutes and other things that take all day and everything inbetween. We each only get 24 hours a day so it’s just a matter of how you want to prioritize your life. I prioritize cooking for myself, friends and family so there is always time for it. I watch very little TV, get my groceries delivered and say “no” more often than is comfortable but I don’t struggle to find time to cook. It’s a priority for me, plain and simple. It’s your life, build it so that it works for you!
Everything! Seriously. I love to travel and try new cuisines and I take this curiosity into the kitchen with me. I will say that my default is probably more of a Mediterranean flavor profile but I also love to cook Middle Eastern, African, Indian, Thai, and other Southeast Asian flavor profiles. I am always looking to expand my skill set and try new things because I don’t usually like to make the same thing twice. The good thing about that is it makes recipe R&D really fun for me.
In some ways, I am. I love food and I’m very knowledgable about preparation methods, ingredients and I’m aware of what’s going on in my local restaurant and farmer’s market communities. However, because I mostly eat at home, I am not a foodie in the sense of having first hand knowledge of every restaurant in my city. A lot of people who meet me assume that I will be quick with restaurant recommendation but that’s not really my thing. I love to eat out, I do! And I usually have a running list of places I want to try but because there are always so many new places opening and closing, there are more places that I haven’t been to than I have. What I can do is order once we get there. I’m really good at figuring out what the best things on the menu are. So there’s that. Does that make me a foodie? You tell me!
Me. I do. On certain articles and projects I have gotten a helping hand from some of my very dear and talented friends and family so shout out to Christine Meyers (road trip buddy), Jay Giardina and Tracy Kuaea. They have helped me style and shoot many a meal. But for the most part, these photos are taken by me.
I used to exclusively use my iPhone 5s and then I got a Samsung S5 and then a friend let me borrow her Leica point and shoot and now I have an iPhone 7 Plus. I have also borrowed and rented fancy DSLR cameras or, some of my friends who have helped me out, have shot with their fancy cameras. I went to art school in undergrad and my philosophy around photography is that you can get an amazing image using any tool, you just have to know your tool. The overwhelming majority of the pictures on this blog are shot with a Leica point and shoot or my iPhone. This is not a photography blog, sorry. I can’t geek out with you on F stops and shit like that. Maybe some day but… if Apple keeps putting doper and doper cameras on phones, I doubt it.
This is an excellent question that I’m still not sure I have an answer for. This blog started out as an outlet for creative expression in the wake of my divorce. It was a great source of therapy for me. At a time when I was feeling really horrible about myself, like I was the biggest idiot and loser in the world, this blog was something that made me feel like there was something that I could do right, something that I was good at. Since then it’s evolved into a passion or more accurately an expression of my passions. The more I learn about where my food comes from, the more people I meet who are doing really amazing work in the arenas of sustainability, zero waste, minimalism, ecological and sustainable farming, the more I want to do and the more I want to learn. I’m inspired and I hope that by sharing my journey, I’m inspiring. I hope that reading everything I put on this blog stirs your imagination, makes you ask questions and look for answers. What I hope to accomplish is to create a resource for tips, guidance, and community around living as sustainable a life as you can right now. Once we get there, we’ll see where else we can go. How does that sound?
Scheherezade Daftary, slayer of excel spreadsheets by day (accounting and finance) and kitchen sorceress by night and weekends. I’ve written some more in depth articles on the subject of me that will someday be chapters in my memoirs. Check them out. I recommend starting here and then going here and then maybe head on over here. There is more of this type of stuff under the Articles tab and the About Me. Enjoy!