Hello, I’m Alex Coffman, a native West Virginian and WVU Extension Agent by day and local food blogger and amateur chef by night. I love to forage and eat local foods, fresh veggies, and Appalachian dishes.
This year we decided to get our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) — a local box of food usually picked up weekly–that includes a share of the farm’s veggies. The idea of a CSA is that you pay a subscription fee upfront in exchange for a share of the season’s crop from the farm. This membership fee is paid on the front end of the season and allows farms to hire staff, buy seeds, and purchase items for the growing season upfront in exchange for the upcoming fresh produce bounty they will harvest. It also gives the farm the necessary flexibility to promise a share of the crop instead of exact quantities of specific produce. CSAs can come in different forms. Some are shipped (usually the most expensive), some are a pick-up box weekly, and some come in the form of weekly credit at farmer’s markets or shops. We were happy to pick up our share directly from Wardensville Garden Market’s farm located in Wardensville, West Virginia (Hardy County) each weekend.
West Virginians are known for their home gardens, and thus CSAs have been slower to gain popularity with homesteaders in the Mountain State than city dwellers (understandably!). However, some farms have begun offering CSAs for those of us who rent, frequently travel in the summer, or do not have a green thumb. This summer and fall, we chose to purchase a Wardensville Garden Market Main Season share, also known as a seasonal veggie share. This was one of the closest CSAs to us, and since we have family in Wardensville, it made sense to try it out.
The Year of COVID-19
It turned out this was a perfect year to join a CSA program since COVID caused two major things; a reluctance to go to the grocery stores as often, and we were home to cook all the time! Having fresh organic veggies that we could get weekly and cook creatively has been extra exciting this year. Also, major props to Wardensville Garden Market for creating a safe and contactless CSA pick up all the way through the fall season.
This year, the garden market offered a fall CSA extension beyond the 20 weeks of summer veggies, which includes fall produce like squash and root veggies. We were excited to continue receiving fresh organic produce even in November! Unlike some other farms and markets, the Wardensville Garden Market grows year-round. We started with spring greens and lighter fare in the spring and moved into peak summer with tomatoes; one week, we got an entire flat! Right now, we are eating interesting squash and turnips. A CSA really does put you in tune with growing seasons. There is something magical about eating with the weather, and I love getting veggies at peak season. It is incredible when produce can be picked for only a short travel from farm to table, and thus they can ripen longer and be that much tastier.
Thinking Outside the Box
Part of the fun of a CSA is trying to be creative with the ingredients. One dish I created was swiss chard tacos, something I would not have thought to make if I did not have a large bunch of swiss chard (something I don’t often buy on my own). Getting a CSA will introduce you to new foods, let you eat more seasonally, support a local farmer, and have good quality produce in your life. I highly recommend looking at CSAs in your area during the next growing season.
CSAs can vary in cost depending on how large the farm is, how many people buy-in, whether it’s pick up for delivery, or the general location. In 2020, a Main Season share from Wardensville Garden Market ran about $19/week for organic veggies and eggs. The cost was lowered too, since COVID affected most peoples’ incomes, they wanted to ensure everyone had a chance to purchase a share. While it may sound a little pricier than what you spend on grocery store veggies; you can’t beat the quality of their organic produce. They also offer a payment plan for their CSAs, so there is no pressure to pay upfront. Did I mention they’re a non-profit organic farm that reinvests 100% of their proceeds back into their mission to create opportunities for Appalachian youth to grow to reach their highest potential? Your CSA purchase goes a long way to helping them do good in the local community, like the over $90,000 they’ve given in scholarships over the past four years!
Wardensville Garden Market makes it very easy to join their CSA program and can help you decide the best option for you and your family. If you know you can’t commit to picking up 20 weeks of produce, you may be interested in their Friend of the Farm card instead, a more flexible option that lets you shop when you want in-store and online. Head to their website to read more about all the CSA options available at www.wardensvillegardenmarket.org/csa
If you live in the Potomac Highlands, I recommend trying out the Wardensville Garden Market’s CSA Program, which reopens for signups at the end of November 2020!
I’m Alex Coffman, a native West Virginian and WVU Extension Agent by day and local food blogger and amateur chef by night. I love to forage and eat local foods, fresh veggies, and Appalachian dishes. Follow my foodie adventures on my blog http://wildwestvirginian.blog and my instagram @the_wild_west_virginian
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