Community Supported Agriculture: Connecting with Food and Farmers

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Whether 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.

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.

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.

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.

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?