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I have been wanting to subscribe to a farm share or community supported agriculture (CSA) for a long time, but this year we finally did it! It was a great experience, and we’ll sign up again. But if you’re planning to join one, here are a few things I learned from my first farm share season to help you out.
Keeping an Organized Vegetable Drawer
After losing an eggplant and a bunch of beets because we just forgot about them, I knew it was time to get into gear and start organizing our produce system. I decided on two different techniques to implement in the second half of the season. We’ve had much less loss since we started these.
First, I keep a list on my computer of everything fresh we have in the fridge, organized by how old it is. I include notes on how quickly items need to be used, and quantities. I also used this document to add meal ideas, and note which items a meal would use up.
Second, we utilized our fridge space. No one could ever accuse my fridge of being organized, but the produce drawer is a place where I make an effort. I put older items toward the front and newer in the back. For snacking fruits, those are easily accessible to quickly grab. Heartier vegetables I place off to the sides to grab when cooking. Our four-door fridge definitely helps keep everything easy to find.
Meal Planning With a Farm Share
We get our farm share deliveries on Tuesdays, but we tend to shop on the weekend. Sometimes we’d have a great estimated pack list before our weekly grocery trip, but other times, we needed to learn to be flexible.
Farm shares can be filled with a lot of surprises and last minute changes. We learned very quickly not to depend on a specific ingredient for a meal, but instead to build meals we could fit many items into.
It’s a good idea to have a couple of fun options in your pocket that you can change up when they switch your corn for tomatoes, or cauliflower for chard. One of my favorites is to have meal concepts instead of specific recipes. Try this vegetarian nacho formula mid- to late summer, when corn, summer squash, and tomatoes are in season. You can even add some peaches!
The Farm Bounty Will Ebb and Flow
At the beginning of the season, we weren’t getting as much from the farm. Then around mid-July, we were getting so much that we just couldn’t handle it! Plus sometimes we were getting produce that can be stored for a long time, and other items we got needed to be used very quickly.
We initially had a few things go bad, but we started researching. By a few weeks in, we were looking up storage techniques for each item, even if we thought we knew. Vegetables and fruits can be very fickle. Some greens do better washed and stored in a sealed container, while others are better in a loose bag.
Learning storage techniques and keeping track of what needed to be used first helped us as we went through the season. Plus, if you do end up with way too many peaches right before vacation, like we did, the canner will come in handy!
Seasonal, Farm-Fresh Produce Just Tastes Better
Here’s the thing about local, seasonal produce straight from a farm: It’s so delicious. Like seriously. I hated cantaloupe, but when we got a cantaloupe from the farm, I didn’t hate it. I loved it.
Every single item we received was bigger, lusher, and more flavorful than it’s grocery store counterpart. The scallions were three feet long, no exaggeration. We had to trim them just to fit in the fridge! A bunch of bok choy lasted us for six meals. The onions were so strong that Kevin had to hide them in the basement.
Sure there were a few crops we didn’t enjoy, but it wasn’t because of the quality of the items. I’m just never going to like watermelon or Concord grapes. Kevin isn’t a huge fan of dark, leafy greens. But the farm versions were still better than what we’d find in the store.
Make Your Farm Share and Grocery Store Work Together
We got a half share from our farm, which was perfect for two people. But the haul wasn’t always ideal for meal planning on its own. We were able to order additions to our weekly delivery if needed, such as extra fruits or vegetables for a large batch. We did this to make a bunch of dill pickles!
However, when it came to meals, we supplemented with our grocery store for anything that wasn’t fresh fruits and vegetables. I kept our pantry stocked with grains like pasta, rice, couscous and quinoa and protein sources like beans and lentils. In our fridge, we stored plenty of cheeses.
But the main thing that made last minute meal planning easy was having lots of flavor on hand. I’ve always had a well stocked and organized spice cabinet, and I kept the fridge doors full of condiments. Some of my favorites to have on hand are hoisin sauce for stir fry, adobo for quick Mexican dishes, and garlic paste for everything.
Are you planning on signing up for a farm share next season? Usually sign ups are during the down season, which for upstate NY is late winter, but may be different in warmer climates. Check out Local Harvest to find one near you!
8 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned From My First Farm Share Season”
I agree produce from the farm does taste better. My husband was raised on a farm so he has better farm experience than me.
It really does make a huge difference. Your husband sounds like he knows what he’s talking about!
I had a farm share and it was such a great way to change up my eating habits! I need to look into signing up for another one.
It really does help you eat healthier! We had so many fruits and veggies around that it was easier to grab those than unhealthy snacks.
I’ve honestly never looked in to doing this but every time I go to the farm or farmer’s market, I always feel like the food is so much better so I’m going to have to give it a try!
A farm share is easier than the market too, because you just get what’s in season without having to think too much, and it’s prepaid!
I would live to find a CSA in my area! I do need to learn about meal planning with surprise veggies though, like you mentioned, but I think this could be a great way to introduce more produce to our diets (with less effort).
It is low effort for sure, and made a big difference for us! I’m sure you can find one near you and get better and working with different veggies.