Greener Vail: Changing the grocery store mentality
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –In the second week of being a community supported agriculture member in the Vail Valley, I opened my big red box from Grant Family Farms to reveal two bunches of kale (both curly and crinkly), two bunches of collard greens, two heads of perfectly round butter lettuce, one bunch leaf lettuce, bag of mixed baby greens, crimson baby beets, radishes, cilantro and a bag of garlic scapes.
As I start to unload the abundance of edible greens, feeling a bit like a rabbit in heaven, I hear a disapproving “hmph” over my shoulder. My perpetually hungry husband is a bit skeptical of the “value” of the 26-week CSA program.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is basically a way to buy seasonal food direct from a local farmer. The farmer offers a certain number of “shares” of his farm to the public. This can include shares of vegetables, fruit, eggs, even meats and dairy or mushrooms. Consumers purchase a share and in return receive a box of goodies from the farm each week.
This is the first time that Grant Family Farms, located in the foothills in Wellington, has offered an Eagle County delivery. I ordered a small veggie share, a single fruit share and a single egg share (one dozen a week). Everything, including the eggs, are certified organic. All three different shares cost me a total $1,393, or about $53 bucks a week, but the fruit doesn’t start until July – until it’s in season. And that’s the catch.
Joining a CSA means you have to change your grocery store mentality. You can’t expect to receive what’s in season in Mexico or California or from wherever else the grocery store has purchased produce. Strawberries in early April are no longer a reality. Blueberries may not be a reality at all. In exchange, your fruit-and-vegetable intake is now centered around what’s in season at “your” farm, in your state, where you live. Most of us are downright spoiled by the variety of produce available from a food system grossly dependent on cheap oil. It makes eating strictly locally and seasonally an even harder transition to make, but the tradeoff is a more sustainable way of life with the bonus of fresher food.
At week 2, $53 does seem a little steep for a big box of greens, but as the harvest grows, so does my box. By mid July it will overflow with a bounty of 8 to 12 different varieties of vegetables and fruit. For me, this is just a small price to pay for the real “value” of belonging to a CSA.
Not only does your food travel less, reducing its carbon footprint and holding on to its nutrients, you are supporting the hardworking (and usually organic) farmer. This helps develop a regional food supply and strong local economy. CSA cuts out the middleman, lowering the costs to both farmer and consumer.
Farming, although painted somewhat glamorous these days, is still an extremely hard and stressful occupation, totally dependent on the weather. Because members purchase shares before each season, it allows farmers to pay for seed, water, new equipment and maybe even more farm upfront without the burden of banks or loans. CSA members also share the inherent risk of farming, building a sense of community and helping normal people like myself realize how precious food really is. If some strange mold takes out all the cherries, everyone is disappointed together, and together all the members celebrate over sweet, juicy peaches.
But even at two weeks, when green seems like the only color of the rainbow, I have experienced what I like best about belonging to a CSA – the cooking challenge. How will I store this cilantro? What will I do with all this kale? It’s forced me to be resourceful, dig out my cookbooks (veggie lover Deborah Madison is my heroine) and search the internet for new, inspiring recipes.
And to think, this week at age 31, I will taste something brand new, something I have never ever tried or even seen before – garlic scapes. Here’s to those wild, curly, brilliantly green shoots.
Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to its Web site, Grant Family Farms is still taking community supported agriculture orders for mountain delivery. Contact them at email@example.com or call 970-568-7654.
Warm weather means its sludge-treatment time and it’s been a big volume spring