Bring local produce your way with a CSA

June 04. 2012 11:00AM - Last modified: June 04. 2012 11:27AM

By Erica Streisfeld

Do you belong to a CSA? Or rather, do you know what that is?

A May 30 share box from Spiral Path Farm included spring onions, spinach, frisée, mixed baby greens, radishes, red-leaf lettuce, carrots, sugar snap peas and strawberries. Photo/Andy Link

Let me give you a hint: It won’t be confiscating your carry-on liquids that are in containers larger than 3 ounces (that’s the TSA). It will, however, provide you with plenty of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) farms are becoming an increasingly popular way to enjoy ultra-fresh produce from local farmers. Plus, you just might get introduced to veggies that you would never normally buy, and that leads to much-beloved tinkering in the kitchen.

Here’s how it works: As a consumer, you can purchase a “share” as membership to a CSA. Every week during the farming season, you then receive a box of seasonal produce. Some CSAs also include other farm products, such as dairy or meat.

Sounds good, but are you afraid of the commitment? This year I’ve decided to take the CSA plunge with Spiral Path Farm. What convinced me is that this certified organic farm offers a June sampler so you can test out a share for four weeks. If I like it, I can continue membership at a pro-rated price for the remainder of the season. You also can simply join at any point in the season, and your price will reflect the number of deliveries remaining.

I’m super excited for my first pickup, especially because of the new recipe opportunities. Spiral Path even offers a virtual cookbook with ideas. I chose the medium share (five to eight items per week), which is designed to feed a family of two. With my recent juicing endeavors, I figure if I have any leftovers, I can always add them to a juice. For heartier appetites or families of three or more, there’s also a full-share option (eight to 10 items per week). And for the fall, Spiral Path partners with Oyler's Organic Farms in Adams County to offer an organic apple share.

While Spiral Path is based clear across Perry County near Loysville, it offers nearly 40 pickup sites throughout Central Pennsylvania, so it’s easy enough to collect your weekly share close to home. My chosen pickup site is only 1 1/2 miles from my house.

Spiral Path is hardly the only option. There are dozens of CSAs right here in Central Pennsylvania. Check out LocalHarvest or Ecovian to find a CSA near you.

What’s your favorite way to prepare or cook fresh produce?

Erica Streisfeld is the editor for custom publishing at Journal Publications Inc., parent company of the Central Penn Business Journal. She moonlights as a foodie and wino, and many people also know her as founder and organizer of the Harrisburg Cupcake Cup, a community cupcake competition that doubles as a fundraiser for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Follow her at @HbgFoodandWine.