7 Reasons to Join a CSA {Community Supported Agriculture}

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and has become more and more popular in the United States within the last 25 years.  You’re sure to have one in your community—you can click here to see. 

I seriously don’t know the slightest about planting or growing food.  If you’re one of those who can maintain your own strawberry﹘um﹘tree? . . . or potato﹘er﹘bush? then I have mad respect for your skills.  For people with a black thumb like me, a CSA is the better way to go.  This summer will be my family’s fourth year participating in one and we absolutely love it.  

 

How it Works:

This process allows you to purchase a “share” of organic seasonal fruits and veggies straight from a local farmer–eliminating a “middleman.”  You can select and pay for {in advance} the season in which you wish to participate so you’re not locked in year-round.  My family only buys a half share in the summer.  Throughout the season, you usually have the option to buy additional individual items such as eggs, honey, jams, flowers, or any surplus of produce.

Shareholders receive their goods on a regular basis.  It could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on your organizer.  Some CSAs deliver directly to you, to a particular central location for all shareholders to pick up, or require you to pick it up from them.  

I was living in cloud of ignorance and had never even heard of a CSA before I read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 {a book that totally changed my life, btw}.  I decided to hop on the CSA train and here’s 7 reasons why my family continues to use it each summer, and why you should start:

 

#1 – WE ARE SUPPORTING A LOCAL FARMER

Remember that ad during the Super Bowl a few years ago?  The one that didn’t leave a dry eye in the room?  So God Made a Farmer.

Gah.

Here I am.  All I do is teach teenagers about nonessential information like dangling participles while farmers are out doing back breaking work for 90+ hours/week so we can like . . . eat and stuff.

Seriously.  

God. Bless. All. The. Farmers.

Amen.

When you participate in a CSA, your money goes directly to the farmer.  You also pay up front, so this helps the farmers be more financially secure.  The downside for you is that they could have a poor crop for whatever reason and you could be out some of that money.

But since we’ve already established that farmers are the worthy human beings, I’m willing to take the chance to give them support.

 

#2 –  IT’S ORGANIC + FRESH

Most farmers who participate in CSA’s grow their produce organically.  Our CSA farmer writes:

We have been providing wholesome foods to our customers using chemical-free, biologically sound methods for over 35 years. We follow organic and sustainable principles in all aspects of the farm.”

I love it.

I’m also about to sound like an ignorant city girl . . . but that’s what I am, K?  Before going all CSA, I really didn’t pay attention to the fact that fruits and vegetables had certain seasons because my grocery store ALWAYS has strawberries, and squash, and cantaloupe, and tomatoes {and you KNOW I wasn’t growing any myself}.  If I want to sink my teeth into a juicy nectarine in the dead of winter, HyVee can make that possible.

When you buy produce that is out of season, most likely it has been imported from somewhere hundreds of miles away, picked before it was ripe, and spent several days traveling on a truck.  The quality, nutrition, and freshness are now significantly reduced. More on this in #4.

Not only do CSAs give you what is in season, there’s a good chance it was harvested within hours of you picking it up from your farmer.

Have you ever eaten something so fresh?

Nothing compares.

 

#3 – IT’S CHEAPER

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Example of how much comes in half a share.

Organic food can be expensive, but using a CSA definitely reduces the cost.  My family buys a half share during the summer, which runs the entire months of June-August.  A half share {which is more than enough for my family of four} costs $325 {plus tax}.  Divide that by 14 weeks and the cost is only $25/week.  That price is hard to beat at a grocery store.  If that price is a bit steep for you, some CSAs  let you work or give a discount if you pick it up.

The picture on the right shows everything we received from one of our summer half shares.  Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less.  This one included cabbage, red potatoes, an onion, a green pepper, smaller onions, rainbow chard, kale, kohlrabi, and a pepper.

#4 – FEWER EMISSIONS
As mentioned in my second point, when food is purchased at a grocery store, there is a good chance it is not local.  In fact, there’s a really good chance it has traveled hundreds . . . even thousands of miles!  No joke.

According to CUESA {Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture} all the food on your dinner plate traveled an average of 1,500 miles!!!

Say what?  

For example, here’s a breakdown showing the average of how far some foods travel to get to a terminal market {more popular in large cities} vs. a farmer’s market:

Produce Terminal Market Farmer’s Market
Apples 1,500 miles 105 miles
Tomatoes 1,369 miles 117 miles
Grapes 2,143 miles 151 miles
Beans 766 miles 101 miles
Peaches 1,674 miles 184 miles
Winter Squash 781 miles 98 miles
Greens 889 miles 99 miles
Lettuce 2,055 miles 102 miles

Um . . . that’s a major difference.  Buying some produce from the grocery store could not only means it’s not fresh, but it takes a significant amount of travel time﹘sending harmful emissions in the air and causing an even bigger carbon footprint on this precious earth.  

My farmer only lives about 50 miles from me.  He comes up to my hometown every Wednesday to sell produce and other goods at a farmer’s market, which is only about 10 miles from my home.  

I can sleep easy with those numbers.  

To read up on more information regarding the severity of buying produce long distance, click here.  

P.S.—I realize that some grocery stores {like my beloved Dillons} do attempt to purchase some of their produce locally.  I’m speaking in general terms here. 

 

#5 – IT HELPS KEEP YOU ON A MEAL PLAN

When you participate in a CSA, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have a lot of produce around your house that will rot soon.  If you don’t incorporate it, all into your meals each week, then you’re sadly wasting your money {which is not an option for my frugal self!} We plan our meals around our food each week, which actually ends up saving us money.

When you don’t have a meal plan, you tend to aimlessly wander around a grocery store, throw whatever looks good into your cart, and then end up with more than you need {and most likely food that goes bad if you never planned to incorporate it}.

While you’re at the mercy of whatever is in season and whatever your farmer chooses to grow, it is actually kind of nice giving up that control and letting your meals for the week be based on that instead of whatever you choose.  It’s comfortingly structured.

 

#6 – WE GET TO TRY NEW FOOD

This may be one of my favorite reasons.  As I mentioned in #5, you’re at the mercy of whatever food happens to be in your CSA share each week.  It’s not always food you would normally buy.  In fact, it’s not always food you’ve even heard of before!

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Kohlrabi

Take kohlrabi for example.  

What the heck even is that?  

This little gem {which turned out to be a “cousin” to the turnup} showed up in our first few shares.  We didn’t even know how to pronounce it, let alone know how to cook it.  

My husband ended up throwing it on the grill with some butter, salt, and garlic, and it was delicious.  Now kohlrabi is honestly one of our favorite veggies we receive all season.

Using a CSA forces you to get creative, look up a lot of recipes, and stretch yourself.  We’ve created so many new dishes we would have never encountered before.  It’s a fun experience for our family.

 

#7 – RELATIONSHIPS

Depending on how your CSA is set up, you will have a chance to meet new people.  As I mentioned in #4, our farmer brings our shares to a local farmer’s market every Wednesday and we pick up our food from him.

Before this model, everyone who had a share took turns driving to the farm and bringing it back to our hometown.  We would meet at a local park every Saturday between 1:30 and 2:00 PM to pick up our food.  You got to meet other people and swap recipe ideas between CSA vets and newbies.

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My daughter loving on a farm kitty.

Our kids loved it when it was our turn to drive to the farm to pick up the food.  We are a suburban family with zero pets {I know . . . }, so seeing such things as litters of kittens running around and a turkey coop is better than going to the zoo.  Our farmers always offer a tour and some extra produce to the picker-upper as well.  It’s a unique relationship that would never be developed otherwise.  

 

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My kids checking out the baby turkeys on the farm.

If you’re in the northeast Kansas area and are interested in participating, please check out our CSA provider: Shepherd’s Valley

If you decide to use our CSA provider, please tell them I referred you. 🙂  

Have questions?  Let me know!

Here’s to fresh eating in the future.

Love,

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What Happened When I Wore the Same Outfit for Three Weeks

The past has no power over the present

I love clothes.

No.  I mean I really love clothes.

When I started making my own money in high school, I probably could have supported a small army with the amount I spent on clothing.  In fact, in high school, I had three closets stuffed full.

I also cared about what I wore.

A lot.

You guys, I even had a journal where I kept track of what clothes I wore to make sure I didn’t have any repeats within a month.

Vanity much?

In 2012, a dear friend of mine introduced me to the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  This book completely changed my life.  You can read Jen Hatmaker’s synopsis of her book here.  In a nutshell, though, she describes 7 as “[a] seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of overconsumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:

Food.

Clothes.

Possessions.

Media.

Waste.

Spending.

Stress.”

This book had such an impact on me that I wanted to share its message with others.  From January to July of 2013, I led a small group at our church where we read through the book and did our own monthly experiments by fasting and purging the very things that steal our time, money, and health (among other things).  Each month focused solely on one of the categories above.  Our goals were to simplify our lives by eradicating the excess and thus, making more room for God.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7.  I love her.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7. I love her.

Because of my obsession, I was dreading the clothes month.  During that time I had to come clean to my group.  I encouraged everyone to count all their clothes and shoes.  I discovered that I had:

  • 377 items of clothing {not including any accessories or undergarments}
  • 41 pairs of shoes.

For my fast that month, I:

  • gave away 100 items of clothing from my closet,
  • vowed not to go shopping for new clothes for six months {torture, I tell ya},
  • vowed to give away something old for every new item I bought for my wardrobe {forever}, and
  • only wore ten items of clothing (not counting undergarments) for 30 days.  That included: one pair of grey pants, one pair of khaki pants, one pair of jeans, one black top, one cream sweater, one green turtleneck sweater, one pink sweater, one KU t-shirt, one pair of yoga pants for home, and one fleece sweatshirt.  I did not wear any jewelry except my wedding rings, but I did allow myself to wear unlimited scarves and several pairs of different shoes.
The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

It was so, so hard at first, but ended up being so, so freeing.  In those thirty days, only one of my 150 students said anything to me.  It was a little freshman girl who finally asked, “Mrs. B., do you really like that turtleneck?  You seem to wear it a lot.”  Even my student aide, who knew I was doing this clothing fast, admitted she didn’t even notice while it was going on.

That experiment really intrigued me.  I was so self-conscious about wearing the same ten articles of clothing to work for a month . . . and no one even seemed to notice.  Hmmmm.

Fast Forward to Summer School 2015.

I teach summer school every summer to make extra money.  This past school year, I worked an average of 60-70 hours a week because we’re desperately trying to pay off our debt.  The thought of four more weeks of early mornings and dress clothes seemed particularly daunting this summer.  Plus, to be honest, I’ve gained enough weight that only a couple of my dress pants comfortably fit me at the moment.  Dressing up—something that was practically a hobby of mine—had now become something I loathed.

Seriously though.  I spend SO.MUCH.TIME. just thinking about what I’m going to wear.  I bet on average, I stare at my closet for about five minutes in the morning before picking something out. I have 190 contractual work days during the school year.  If I do that every morning, that means in just one school year I’m wasting 950 minutes contemplating my outfit.  That boils down to almost 16 hours.

I thought to my fatigued self, “I really wish I could only wear those two khaki pants {the ones that actually fit me} for the duration of summer school.”

Then I had a better thought, “Uh . . . why don’t you just do it?”

As a semi-joke I threw out this idea on Facebook:

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So many of my friends urged and dared me to do it.  I’m not one to run in the face of awkward situations, and I certainly love social experiments, so of course I made it happen.

My main goal was to see if anyone would notice my wardrobe or not, so I decided to go with a very simple outfit (as seen in the picture above):

  • BLACK TOP {I rotated five different black tops – some short sleeved, some long sleeved, but all solid black}.
  • KHAKI PANTS {I rotated between two different pairs}.
  • SAME SHOES {knock-off Birkenstocks}.
  • SCARVES {I wore different scarves for variety—rotating between about five different ones}.
  • EARRINGS {I also wore different earrings for variety—rotating between about seven different ones},

HOW SUMMER SCHOOL WORKS

It’s important for you to know that summer school is atypical compared to a regular school day.

Students meet from 8:30-11:30 AM for a four-week period.  This year, I had 16 students {ranging from 9th-11th graders} in my English class who were with me that entire three-hour block. They independently worked on a virtual course, so my role was more of a facilitator; therefore, I did a lot of monitoring from my computer and worked with students one-on-one.  I was not up in front of the class teaching a curriculum.

Once students finish their virtual course, they may check out of summer school.  I have some students who check out the first week and some who stay until the very last second.

WHAT I DID

The first week, I wore the same kind of outfit {khakis, white top, different cardigans, and different scarves}.  I decided that wasn’t extreme enough, so I went with the outfit previously described.  I wore just the khakis and black tops for the last three full weeks of summer school.

WHO NOTICED

I already knew many of these students prior to summer school, so I fully expected one who was already comfortable with me to say, “Um . . . didn’t you just wear that yesterday?!?!?”

That never happened.

Some of my friends argued that a student would never say such a thing to a teacher, but you would be shocked what kids utter to their authorities—even about their wardrobe.  See my comment about the clothes fast I did in 2013.

It finally became evident that I would need to be proactive.  I waited to ask students who stayed until the last week {there were seven} if they noticed anything about my outfit.  I only surveyed them since they saw me for the full three weeks in virtually identical outfits.

This is how I approached it.  As kids finished their course, I pulled them aside in the hallway and asked, “Hey, did you happen to notice anything unusual about what I wore each day?”  I asked them individually so the other students couldn’t hear or be influenced by others’ responses.

I also asked the three other summer school teachers, the secretary, and the principal—all of whom saw me pretty much every day.

Out of the twelve people I asked, only two students said they noticed I wore the same outfit and one fellow teacher said she just noticed I wore khaki pants every day.

Everyone else was perplexed by the question.  I got a lot of responses like:

  • “You did???”
  • “No you didn’t.  I would have noticed that!”
  • “Are you serious?”
  • “What?  You wore that for the past three weeks?  No way!”

For the two who did notice, I asked: “When did you notice I was wearing the same thing every day?  Did it bother you?  Did you think it was weird?  Did you think something was wrong with me?  Did you and any other student talk about my outfits?”

Both students’ responses were quite similar.  They each said they noticed around the third week but didn’t really think anything of it. They never discussed it with anyone else.

WHAT THIS TAUGHT ME

I’m sure in a more traditional setting at school, my recurring outfit would be more obvious to students and co-workers. But gracious, I am still shocked by the results of these two experiments.

Above all else, the results have taught me this:

No one cares about you more than you.

{I think we all need to read that last line one more time.}

We spend so much time, money, and effort on our appearances and no one really gives a flip.  I care way more about how I look than anyone else ever will.

I am certainly not advocating that you dress inappropriately, like a slob, and for the love, please don’t abandon your good hygiene practices.  But stop caring so much about what others think. Chances are they aren’t thinking about you all that much anyway.  I laugh at my high-school-self who thought someone might actually notice if I wore the same outfit within 30 days.

Puh-lease.

Consider how much you pay attention to others.  Do you really care about other people’s appearance?  Do you care if someone wears expensive name brand clothing or not?  If they’re trendy or not?  If they wear the same outfit often or not?

If you do care, ask yourself why.  Why does it seriously matter?  In what way does someone else’s wardrobe affect me in any way?

If your friends care and judge you because you aren’t wearing Banana Republic from head to toe and a Coach purse on your shoulder . . . I’d say it’s time to find some new friends and grow up. And ask yourself why you care that they care.

OTHER EFFECTS

I was surprised to discover how wearing the same outfit every day had positive effects on me that I didn’t anticipate.  I didn’t feel stressed or anxious in the mornings.  I didn’t have to spend time worrying about my outfit. This resulted in me getting to sleep in a little later and thus feeling more refreshed throughout the entire day.  In addition, I was comfortable since I wore clothes that I knew fit well.  Who knew that the daily outfit could have such a major effect on someone?

We as humans sure like to over-complicate life when it really could be so simple. I mean, clothes’ original intention was to cover our privates and keep us warm.  We now overwhelm ourselves with thousands of options.  For what?  To be trendy, attractive, more popular?

I don’t know, friends.  I still love me a cute outfit, but I’m kind of over it.

SO . . .

After telling people about this little journey of mine, turns out, this idea wasn’t so original—wearing the same thing every day is becoming more and more popular and so are capsule wardrobes.

I am seriously considering wearing the same basic outfit every day for this entire upcoming school year—the experience was that fabulous.

I said before that I am all about social, awkward experiences.  Do I have any dares from my readers?  Stay tuned for May 2016 . . . you may just see a similar post from me after a nine-month experiment. {wink}.

Love,

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Have any of you tried a capsule wardrobe or something similar?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.