i *love* my CSA
This summer I joined a CSA for the first time, and it's been a highlight of my summer. For those in NYC, I'm part of a Harlem-based CSA, which gets produce from Roxbury Farms.
Things that I love about being part of a CSA:
We get exquisite, fresh, local produce. Crisp, fresh lettuce, with unbelievable texture and bite. Incredible, sweet fresh corn.
We get random stuff that I don't know what to do with. And now I know what to do with it. We get not-so-random stuff in quantities that I don't know what to do with. And now I know how to handle infinite basil (sautee, with carmelized onions), and infinite zucchini and squash (Marcella Hazan's zucchini fritatta is fluffy and decadently delicious).
We are obligated to pick up produce regularly. And use it up before the next pick-up comes around. That has meant eating at home much more, and eating healthily and deliciously.
We're sharing with a co-worker, so we pick up every two weeks, which has worked out really well. It's not cheap, but has been so wonderful that I think it's well worth it.
So, if you have a CSA in your area, join! And have I mentioned that eating infinite swiss chard stems makes you feel incredibly virtuous?
I *love* mine, too. In addition to all of the benefits you've mentioned, we're getting exposed to some vegetables (pea shoots, turnips, kohlrabi, etc.) we otherwise may not have tried to experiment with, at least not in these large quantities.
If you want info on CSAs throughout the New York City area, check out http://www.justfood.org/csa/ This website has locations and websites/contact info for all of the city's CSAs.
I'd like to add that I consider my CSA share an incredibly good deal. I am paying much less per organic vegetable than I would at Whole Foods, and I think it's a bit cheaper than the various wonderful Greenmarkets around town, too.
Some CSAs work with egg/dairy/meat farmers, too. Through my wonderful Stanton Street CSA, I've been able to buy pastured poultry, all natural pork, grass fed and finished beef, and truly free range eggs (laid by poultry that run around eating worms and bugs in fields, not cheap corn feed in barns). I know that a number of city CSAs work with this meat farmers' cooperative, whose website is http://www.csapasturedmeatandpoultry....
I finally had to tell the lady at my CSA to lighten up on the cucumbers. I get a lot each week but not enough at any given time to do any canning. I've been getting a cabbage a week, which is fun. Last week I made sauerkraut (my recipe makes A quart), one for me and one for my dad, who specially requested it. We've had sweet corn every week, and we've been eating half and freezing half each time, so we'll have corn to enjoy for quite awhile.