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Yay for CSA!

Our most recent shipment contained eggplant, corn, tomatoes, nectarines, white peaches, small onions and a small nasturtium (the green plant in the top right)

I've mentioned our "CSA shipments" in a few posts already, so I thought I'd take some time to explain what in the world I'm talking about!  To start, CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture".  It's basically a way to support local farmers, eat more sustainably and keep agricultural profits in your area. You pay up front (usually) for the entire season.  By doing so, you're making an investment in a local farm - taking on both the risks and benefits.  I like this list of the 10 Reasons You Should Join a CSA.

Delivery Day!
This is actually a "full share" amount that arrived on our doorstep.
We were on vacation one week, so they held our  half-share shipment
during that week and sent us a full-share the week we returned.

As always before making a big purchase, I took to the Internet and did some serious research.  Local Harvest has a terrific directory of CSAs and farmers' markets.  Using this resourse, I narrowed the list down to a few good options in the area and ultimately decided upon Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia.  I chose this farm because they had several convenient delivery/pick up options and because the cost of membership includes weekly U-Pick bonuses and free wine tastings at Bluemont Vineyards.  Not a bad deal!

A peek inside the prize box: green beans, corn,  tomatoes, onions, a cantaloupe & white and yellow peaches

My hubby and I chose a "half share" membership, which is more than enough for the two of us.  Our membership began during the first week in June and will continue through mid-October, for a total of 20 weeks.  Each Tuesday  morning we get a 5-15 pound shipment of produce delivered to our door step.  It's one of my favorite parts of the week.  I love to open up the mystery box and see what prizes we've been sent!  Most of the items are familiar foods, but each week we'll get at least one fruit or veggie that we don't normally eat -- or have never tried.  It's a great opportunity to try eating and cooking new things.  It also forces us to eat seasonally and locally, which is so important.

Strawberry Picking at GCF -- made so many yummy treats with those berries!

There are a couple of downsides to membership that I've discovered.  The first was expected.  Each week there is the self-inflicted pressure to not waste a thing.  This is mostly good, I suppose, but it can become a slightly stressful ordeal during a busy week.  I have been found blanching broccoli or stirring up a ramp risotto at 11pm (or later) to ensure our precious produce does not spoil.  I guess you can call it grocery guilt.

We took some of our freshly picked strawberries across the street to Bluemont Vineyards.
I really love their Vidal Blanc...and warmed baguettes with regional cheese!

The second downside was not as anticipated.  I didn't realize how much I would miss shopping at farmers' markets and strolling down the produce aisle of a grocery store during the summer.   Not that I can't still do these things, but this is where the guilt comes back into play.  A trip to Whole Foods is sheer torture.  A few days ago I stared longingly at the beautiful rows of berries and tomatoes -- on SALE -- while a voice in my head nagged, "You've got all that produce at home that you can't let go to waste!"  Alas...

Look at these cuties hanging from the tree.  I couldn't believe how perfect they were!
I made the best sour cherry pie from them.  It's too bad they have such a short season.
Counting down the days for next year's crop...

All in all, we are very pleased with our decision to join a CSA.  I love knowing the name of our farmers, the Zurchmeides, and feeling like we are supporting local agriculture.  By eating more locally, our food choices are greener and more sustainable.  Food that doesn't have to be shipped hundred or thousands of miles is better for the planet and better for us, as the nutrients aren't diminished over time due to the long shipping process.  Prior to joining GCF, buying locally grown fruits and veggies had not yet become a strong habit or priority for us.  We now can't imagine not buying locally as much as possible.  We're even making more of an effort to buy local dairy products.

If you're not a person who likes to eat a lot of fruits and veggies, a CSA membership is definitely not for you.  Also, if you hate to cook or never have the time to eat at home, save your money.  For anyone who loves to cook with a lot of fresh produce, however, consider joining a CSA...or at least get yourself over to your local farmers' market once a week.

GCF provides so much more than produce!
They offer beautiful scenery, tons of animals to see, pet and feed, as well as lots of  outdoor fun for families.

This rugged rooster greets you upon arrival at GCF
I think next year we may reconsider our membership.  Instead we'll make it a priority to eat locally by shopping regularly at farmers' markets. Although, I'm confident that we'll still make visits Great Country Farms (and, of course, Bluemont Vineyards!) a regular weekend affair.  It will be nice to splurge at a farmers' market without all the nagging "grocery guilt"!


  1. I so hear you on grocery guilt! Overall, love the CSA, though. This is our second year doing one.

    We just found out that ours (Yellow Finch Farms) will be folding early this year, as the owner got a "real" job as a teacher! Back to the farmer's market . . .

  2. That's a shame -- your CSA sounds amazing...veggies, flowers, goat cheese and eggs?!

  3. Yeah, it really was! All in a half share, too!

  4. Beautiful cherries. I miss being able to cook. Someday I'll have time again.