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CSA, Farmer’s Markets and Food Stamps … Oh My!

June 13, 2010

Lately I’ve been obsessed with buying fresh local produce. I guess there are worse thing I could be spending my money on.

Fruits and vegetables are not my foods of choice. I eat vegetables regularly, but I could easily live on dairy and carbs. Unless it’s in the form of a smoothie, I generally don’t reach for fruit as a snack. I envy those people that are perfectly content and satisfied snacking on apples and melon.

Then a few months ago, things started happening that led me to my current obsession with local produce. First, a local Farmer’s Market popped up in my community. I should check that out sometime, I thought. Second, we watched Food Inc. and I realized I needed to get in touch with local agriculture. And third was the story I heard on KPBS Radio about food stamps and Farmer’s Markets.

The KPBS feature talked about how some local Farmer’s Markets are beginning to accept food stamps. Why is this significant? Because one of the huge problems of buying produce in grocery stores is it’s much higher priced than the preservative-laden processed foods. Thus people that use food stamps tend to buy the cheaper, pre-packaged food in order to get more for their stamp value. If Farmer’s Markets can start accepting food stamps, more people who really need the fresh produce can afford healthy food for their families.

So all these things combined led me to my first trip to the local Farmer’s Market. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I was in heaven. I could not believe I’d been missing this all these years! The booths are lined with colorful fruits and vegetables, nothing like you see at the local grocery stores. I actually wanted to pick up an apple and eat it. All this gorgeous produce is grown locally and organically. And the people behind the tables are the farmer’s that grew those fruits and veggies with their own hands. This is their way of life; their business. I was hooked!

There are many reasons to buy from Farmer’s Markets. First and foremost, you’re supporting local farmers and local agriculture. Secondly, the produce is so fresh, probably picked that day or the day prior. A head of lettuce bought at the Farmer’s Market will last more than a week in my fridge, compared to the bag from the store that goes bad in three days.

Another great thing about Farmer’s Markets is that the produce is so inexpensive because it’s coming right from the farmers themselves; there’s no grocery chain in the middle. For my first trip to the Farmer’s Market, I took only $10 cash with me. Here’s what I came home with: two heads of romaine lettuce; four zucchini; three leeks; one head of broccoli; and one bunch of asparagus.

Veggies from the Farmer's Market

As I got hooked on buying produce from the Farmer’s Market, I started to read more about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). What is Community Supported Agriculture? CSA is composed of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. So you “contract” with the farm to financially support them and in return, you receive a box of their grown agriculture.

The writer of this blog writes weekly about her local CSA box and what recipes she concocts from her fresh produce. Her posts inspired me to try a CSA for myself. I liked the idea of supporting a local farm and wanted to do something for the community. In addition, I liked the challenge of using the produce each week.

I purchased a two-week trial CSA membership with Tierra Miguel Farm. I was so excited to pick up my first CSA box, which contained: carrots, romaine lettuce, strawberries, parsley, chard, fennel, oregano, and blood oranges.

CSA Box

I’m proud to say that I used nearly all the produce. With the strawberries and blood oranges, I made a tasty smoothie (with banana, plain Greek yogurt, water, and honey). I ate the remaining strawberries plain; they were so sweet and delicious!

CSA-Inspired Strawberry and Blood Orange Smoothie

I used the parsley and lettuce to make Green Goddess Dressing. I also used the parsley, oregano and blood oranges with the Once-a-Month Cooking dinners I made that week. I’d never eaten chard before. So after searching the Web, I found a recipe for Sautéed Chard with Parmesan that got rave reviews.

The next CSA box from Tierra Miguel Farm contained: carrots, parsnips, beats, romaine lettuce, strawberries, parsley, chard, and fennel. The strawberries and lettuce have already been eaten. We’re working our way through the rest of the produce.

CSA Box #2

So then – that’s right, my produce obsession has not ended yet – I discovered the Specialty Produce Farmer’s Market bag. Specialty Produce is a San Diego wholesale produce distributor. You can buy their weekly Farmer’s Market bag that features fresh and organic produce from local farms.

I picked up my first Specialty Produce bag Thursday and was drooling over the contents: Haas avocados, Anaheim chilies, blood oranges, frisee lettuce, white corn, assorted romaine lettuce, Portuguese garlic, thyme, baby summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, sweet basil, and blood oranges.

Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag

This bag was SO awesome. We ate the corn last night and it was delicious. I’ve almost finished the lettuce. Even the chilies – of which Bryan and I are usually not fans – were delicious! I love that the bags contain such a variety of locally-grown, fresh, organic and healthy produce. I will definitely buy more bags in the weeks to come. In fact, my mouth was watering over this week’s bag, with its promise of watermelon, peaches, cherries, heirloom lettuce, and much more.

So there you have it – my adventures and obsession with local produce. For some time now, I’ve wanted to do something to support my community. What a perfect way to do that, while tying together with my love of food and healthy eating and lifestyle. I’m so excited about my new-found passion!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2010 5:58 am

    Happy to have inspired a new CSA member! I’m looking at your boxes and completely jealous that you get goodies like blood oranges and herbs!

  2. July 31, 2010 9:48 pm

    I so agree! Reading this sounded so familiar- between finding a local farmer’s market just recently, to wondering where it had been all my life and thinking those fruits and veggies were SO amazing. Enjoy those bags! Not sure if I can find something like that for myself, but I’ll be looking.

    • leahsinger permalink
      August 1, 2010 8:46 pm

      Thanks for reading and your comment. Good luck with your Farmer’s Market purchases. I’m telling you … once you eat fresh, you can never go back!

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