Just one of the benefits of living in a town surrounded by farmland is the abundance of fresh produce. Farmer's markets are everywhere, ranging from a roadside table with a few baskets of zucchini and corn and an honor jar, to a weekly indoor/outdoor fresh food bonanza where you can find fresh meats, handmade soaps, hot pretzels and any fruit or vegetable under the sun. Lots of people grow their own vegegtables, too. Many backyards in our neighborhood are filled with neatly tended rows of squash, tomatoes, and peas. I, however, have a seriously black thumb and have never been able to keep a plant alive for more than a week or two. So the home garden is not really a viable option for us.
When we first moved here, we were excited by the prospect of getting our meats and produce from local farms, possibly organic/free-range as well. My original intention was to drive to the farmer's market 30 minutes away every Wednesday and purchase all of our meat, eggs, and produce. I think I went exactly twice, and not even on consecutive weeks. A half hour really isn't that far to drive; I used to do it as a matter of routine in the big city and thought nothing of it. But somehow, when confronted by nothing but two lane road, the sky, and cows, 30 minutes seemed like 3 hours. I bailed.
I started researching, looking for other markets that might be closer. While doing so, I came across something I'd never heard of before: a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) run by a local farm. How does it work? Members purchase produce shares for the growing season (here, typically about 20-22 weeks, June-Nov), which you can pick up at the farm, or at a designated delivery spot. Last year we picked up at a spot 15 minutes away, but this year we are site hosts and the veggies come right to our door! You can't beat it.
Our CSA offers a half share of 5-6 items per week, or a full share of 10 items. They also offer eggs twice a month. I'm sure we pay more for vegetables (the farm doesn't offer fruit at this time) than we would at the A&P, but we know it's extremely fresh and from right down the road. It also gives us an opportunity to try things we would never ordinarily buy. Our boxes have contained things like kale, swiss chard, red scallions, anise hyssop, fennel, pattypan squash, garlic scapes, and Asian greens. I confess having to scramble for recipes sometimes, or even look something up because I'm not sure what it is; I'll also admit we don't always like everything we get. (Except for C, that sweet man, who happily eats everything put in front of him!) Sometimes the radishes get thrown to the rabbits. But it's been a fun experiment, and one I think we'll continue as long as we're able.