Grit Blogs > Joy in the Journey

Community Supported Agriculture: Connecting with Food and Farmers

By Jennifer Nemec


Tags: Jenn Nemec, Community supported agriculture, Food, Recipes,

A photo of Jenn NemecWhether you call it serendipity, luck, coincidence, or the hand of God, sometimes you just feel guided down a certain path. You find the dominoes just sitting there, patiently waiting for you to knock them down. I recently experienced this phenomenon. Reaping the benefits will require a bit of work on my part, but I am going to do my best.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out celebrating World T'ai Chi Day, and a woman from my Tai Chi class said something about the Topeka Natural Foods Co-op. Now, here's where I admit that I've lived here almost 3 years, and I didn't even know we had a co-op, let alone its location. (Until now I've driven over to The Merc in Lawrence to meet my natural food needs.) Turns out the woman's husband is an officer in the co-op. She took me over to show me the place and told me about their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offering, touting fresh produce until November. And, well, they had just one spot left on their list.

Bok choy, carrots, eggs, radish tops on the CSA tables

I've read and written enviously about people with CSA memberships. The cost and amount of food they talk about always seemed to be too much for my single, publishing-salary life. This one fit my budget and is a grocery bag full of produce rather than the "box" I've heard about. (See the dominoes all in a line?) So, right that minute, I signed up – and the first pick-up was last Friday.

Luminous radishes

I really wanted asparagus. (What could be better than fresh asparagus?) So did everyone else, apparently, because even though I got there within 20 minutes of the start of pick-up, the asparagus was already gone. But what was left was so gorgeous. Japanese mushrooms, radishes like we used to have on the farm in that special luminous red, carrots with dirt still on, bok choy, farm-fresh eggs, a bag of baby spinach, and some mixed greens. There were even some choices in there like asparagus or mushrooms, carrots or shitakes, eggs or spinach. Some lovely volunteers kept the tables full (even filled them especially for my photographs) and helped with decision-making.

Greens, baby spinach, carrots and eggs from the CSA table

I got home with my haul and was a bit intimidated. But, here we are almost a week later, and I've done an OK job of not wasting what I took home.

My CSA vegetables from the first week

Right away I got out Susan's bok choy slaw recipe from GRIT and made that up (yum). Most of the mushrooms got sautéed and included in a stir-fry/fried rice dish. The carrots I'm eating raw or grated on sandwiches (made with bread created by Hank's Partner in Culinary Crime). I made the best egg sandwich ever with farm-fresh eggs, dill bread and havarti cheese.

The spinach and greens make great salads. I'm not a huge radish fan, but they're just so darned beautiful to look at I couldn't resist. I did salt a couple and eat them like we did when I was little, and I found a radish salad in Simply in Season that I'm planning to try.

I'm so excited to have the opportunity to support local agriculture, to eat food that I know how it was raised (I think I'll try to visit the farm sometime this summer). I sometimes talk about how much I miss eating meat that I knew by name. (I'm sure this sounds weird to some of you, but when you grow up knowing that the cute baby calf will sustain you later, it becomes a part of life.) With this, the garden here at work, and maybe even some meat from one of the farmers I know here, I'm feeling more and more connected to my food and this community.

I'm sure there will be weeks when I get veggies that aren't on my favorites list, and I may ask you all for recipes to help out with the weird stuff I'm expecting. But, the dominoes were lined up too perfectly for me to not give this a try.

Anyone have other suggestions for bok choy? Or something for my gorgeous radishes that doesn't taste too radish-y?

k.c. compton
5/17/2011 12:54:09 PM

Jenn -- here's a quick pickle recipe from The Herb Companion that has become my newest favorite thing to do with radishes: Herbs de Provence Quick Radish Pickles: http://bit.ly/azWFkY If you like pickles, these are really tasty and the recipe completely earns the "quick" in its title. --KC


richard kurkowski
1/4/2011 10:43:39 AM

Was reading Jennifer's article in the January/February issue Teaming up to save the Bee's. Some of the info I have seen is commenting about cell phones and cell towers maybe upsetting the honey bee's ability to find their way back to the hive. Also there are questions about GMO's Whatever is going on maybe a combination. Its a very important problem I hope it can be solved soon. I don't know what we would do without honey let alone all the crops that need bee's for pollination. Keep digging. Thank You Richard


della sinnock_2
9/6/2010 2:28:33 PM

I may be a little late with this simple recipe, but here it is anyway: For the bok choi, just seperate the leaves from the stem and slice the stem like celery (about 1/4" thick), and saute' in oil, then about 2-3 min before they are done, just toss in the leaves and cook together. Just some salt and pepper are enough for the seasoning and any good oil is fine to cook in. HTH, Della


na olson_2
6/15/2010 12:01:15 PM

It's great to read about your positive CSA experience. We have a friend who co-runs one in PA, and we are doing one on our farm as well here in Ohio, although ours concentrates on organically raised heirloom tomatoes. Oh, and some Sungolds -- can't forget those Sungolds! As for radish recipes, I love to make a radish salad. Radish Salad Take as many radishes as you want with the stems and leaves removed. Slice them very thin. I use our thin slice on the food processor for this if I am making a large batch. Next slice really sweet onions very thin, using less onions than radishes, say 2/3 radishes to 1/3 onions. Plop them in a bowl large enough that you can mix in it. There's a couple ways to make the dressing. You can do like my grandmother would have done and sprinkle the ingredients over the salad and toss well, or you can make the dressing in a separate bowl, pour it on, and then toss well. You'll need to vary the dressing amount by how much salad you are making. The sprinkle method works great for small batches. Dressing components are cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, sugar, and freshly ground pepper. If using the separate method, use about 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil as a basic ratio, then do the sugar, salt, and pepper to taste on the salad. You don't always need all the dressing you made -- the key is to keep mixing and let the flavors meld. It's even better the next day! Enjoy!


jnemec
5/14/2010 9:12:03 AM

Thanks for all the encouragement, guys. I'm really enjoying it so far. Just taking photographs of it all has been great fun. Going to get week three today!


susan_7
5/13/2010 11:02:40 AM

YUM! I love fresh veggies.


s.m.r. saia
5/12/2010 11:36:42 AM

Wow, all that produce is beautiful! I've never had any luck getting hooked up with a CSA, though I wanted to a few years back. Whenever I tried it was always bad timing, wrong season, no slots, phone calls not returned; so I sure understand about your dominoes all falling into place. Congratulations on your serendipity!


mountain woman
5/10/2010 1:05:43 PM

Wow, Jenn, that was really lucky finding a CSA right where you live and the pictures of the produce look delicious. I sure wish I could help you with recipes but alas I don't cook. However, we did just have the first asparagus from our garden and it was amazing so I hope you have the chance to get some. There's really nothing better than knowing you are helping to support your community and eating well at the same time. Can't wait to hear more. Tai Chi? I'd love to hear about that too.


k.c. compton
5/10/2010 10:11:01 AM

Hey Jenn: I forgot that we had a radish pickle recipe over at Herb Companion. This sounds really tasty: http://www.herbcompanion.com/herbs-in-the-kitchen/how-to-quick-pickling.aspx#comments That potato salad recipe makes me really hungry! I'm ready for radishes now ... --KC


cindy murphy
5/7/2010 7:44:14 PM

Cool beans, Jenn...and I'm sure you'll get plenty of them too with your CSA membership. I've never been big on radishes, but here's an easy recipe I like them in - Dijon Potato Salad. 1 cup mayo, (or my preference...gasp! Miracle Whip) 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, or 1 1/2 tsp dried dill 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1 1/2 pound small red potatoes, cooked and quartered 1 cup sliced radishes 1/2 cup chopped green onions Combine ingredients, cover, and chill. That simple. Even I can do it. Oh! And my spinach and mustard greens will be ready for the first picking this weekend. I agree - they make the BEST salads. Enjoy the weekend.


nebraska dave
5/7/2010 3:49:17 PM

Jenn, you have having a great experience with the CSA. I’m sure there are some in my part of the country but I just haven’t searched them out. It’s a great concept though and who ever thought it up was brilliant. I usually just hit the farmers markets. I couldn’t eat that much leafy produce in one week. I do like a good salad but a grocery bag full would just be too much. The people here on Grit always have such good recipes. There’s just not enough time to try all the recipes. I have picked up some good ones off the Grit posts and someday will try them. I have been trying to accumulate the ones that I have interest. It’s been said that we all have about 12 different meals that we rotate through on a regular basis. I noticed that is true for me anyway. It’s the same with me when I eat out. I tend to order the same things for a particular place. I am such a creature of habit. I hope your CSA experience is a good one all summer and fall.


k.c. compton
5/7/2010 12:21:16 PM

You completely inspired me -- or it might have been the bok choy. AT any rate, I called, but they actually DON'T have any slots left. So I put my name on the alternates list and might get to suit up if someone goes on vacation. Sprinkle those little radishes with some mild rice vinegar and let them marinate for an hour or so. It takes some of the edge off and I just love the flavor. I also have a really good pasta recipe at home that involves radishes. I'll see if I can root around and find it this weekend. --KC