Do you CSA?

Photo from plan b organic farms - a CSA in Flamborough, ON.

Winter stinks.

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.  It's cold, my skin is terrible, the carpet makes my hair crackly with static, and there is nary a piece of homegrown produce to be found.  If 'eating local' is of interest to you, the snow-covered months can certainly be a challenge... the garden is frozen, the farmer's markets are closed, the roadside stands are barren and icy, and the supermarket is chalk-full of tasteless orbs flown from Peru, Spain and Ecuador.  What's a locavore to do?

Enter your friendly neighbourhood CSA farmer!  What is a CSA?  Good question!  CSA stands for 'Community Supported Agriculture' and it's getting more popular every season.  While each CSA program can differ, the basic premise is generally the same and is pretty simple - members of the community buy shares of the farmers' crop in advance of the season.  This gives the grower some funds to use to start the crop, as well as a bit of assurance that the foods that are grown will be sold.  When the harvest starts rolling in, shareholders start to reap the benefits!  Weekly (or bi-weekly) baskets of farm-fresh produce are delivered to drop-off points and are collected by shareholders.  It's truly win-win.

So why go to the trouble of paying for your groceries in advance?  For me, it's first and foremost about supporting local farmers and knowing where, when and how my food was produced.  If I can't grow it myself, I'd certainly prefer to be able to shake the hand of the person who did.  If this isn't a major priority for you, a CSA still offers major benefits.  Farm-fresh produce is more nutritious and fresh than anything you'll find in a grocery store, guaranteed.  It also tastes better!  Further, getting a mixed basket of seasonal fruits and vegetables is a great way to introduce your family to new varieties and to truly embed in your children the link between farm and table.  Many CSA farms also operate farm stands, so in the season, you can choose to hop in the car and head out to the farm... talk about a kick-ass day trip for the kiddies!

While the winter pickings are a little slimmer, many CSA farms also offer winter season shares.  Some provide eggs and preserves in their shares as well as stored root crops and fresh greens, and a few even offer meat.  Others subsidize their own home-produced items with carefully selected imports from producers who embody similar growing philosophies.  Whether 100% local or partially imported, investing in shares helps to support the important work that our local farmers do all year round.  Despite what the food marketers would have you think, local growers don't disappear when the snow flies! 

Building connections with eachother and with our food is something our society is seriously lacking, and we have the opportunity as a new generation of parents to change that.  The options are there - we just have to use them! 

To find out more about Ontario CSAs and to find a farm in your area, you can click here.    

Farmer of the Day

Wow!  Imagine my surprise this morning to find that I've been voted 'Farmer of the Day' by the online community at Urban Farm magazine.

I recently wrote about my love for Urban Farm, and I'm so thrilled!  Exciting times!

New, New, New!

Teeny lettuce seedlings from last spring, brimming with promise.

A new year, a new house and a new vision... 2011 is shaping up to be full of excitement and promise!  My husband and I will be moving into our first home at the end of the month, and my head is spinning with the possibilities that this change will bring.  The new lot is a gigantic 50' wide x 206' deep and already boasts loads of perennials, some mature grape vines and a few fruit trees.

As I drool over seed listings and chicken coop designs, I recognize that my biggest challenge this season is going to be pacing myself.  This is tough!  With this sudden availability of excessive space, I'm catching myself mentally planning a whirlwind of construction in the spring... rototilling vast expanses of new garden beds, a water catchment system with irrigation, a chicken coop and fenced run, a doggie area... I have to stop!  It's in my nature to want instant gratification, and keeping my expectations at a reasonable level will be crucial this season, both for my own sanity and for the household budget.

With this in mind, it's time to start making a plan.  An attainable plan.  Our 'move in' date is January 28th, and my first priority (after unpacking) will be to place my first seed order with Linda at Tree & Twig and then start my slow-growing eggplant and peppers.  Then I'll be able to start surveying the lot and planning for new bed construction.  It's an exciting time, and I can't wait to start sharing the creation of Mo Farm with you!

Stay tuned - it's going to get dirty this year, kids!

On that note, I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by the blog in 2010 to read or comment.  This year will bring a host of new challenges and learning experiences, and I hope to grow the Mo Farm community and provide inspiration to all who visit and to learn from one another.  Thanks so much for your help in making this happen!