Shareholder Dividends of a Different Kind: Produce

My wife came home last Thursday with a bag filled with fresh vegetables: arugula, lettuce, scallions, pac choi, pea shoots, radishes, rapini, spinach and turnips. Not from the grocery store or even the downtown farmer's market, but from our farm share. Tricia Cornell explained it well in a 2006 City Pages article:

For half the year, all the vegetables for our family of four come from Hog’s Back Farm, a more-or-less one-man community supported agriculture (CSA) operation in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. Our farmer (we get a kick out of calling him that) is David Van Eeckhout, a rangy, 30-ish father of two. He's been farming on his own for four years.

We are new shareholders of this farm and received our second delivery just this week. Last week was exciting, trying to figure out uses for pea shoots (pesto), arugula, lettuce, scallions, radishes, and spinach (lots and lots of salad).

Hog's Back is one of more than 50 CSAs in Minnesota, according to Local Harvest, and more than 1,200 in the United States. They all work on more or less the same model: an upfront fee that funds the farm through the season, in exchange for regular deliveries of vegetables. In a good year, the shareholders enjoy bounteous yields. In a bad year, they take the hit.

Last week, not knowing what to expect, we were a little surprised at the quantity of vegetables we received. We're splitting our share with some neighbors so we ended up with enough vegetables to fill one grocery bag. I'm happy to support a local farm entrepreneur and I'm using this as an opportunity to eat more vegetables. We feel invested in our weekly delivery. Somehow it seems different than picking up a handful of veggies at the grocery store and forgetting them in the crisper drawer of the fridge until it is too late. It seems I have a lot to look forward to though, according to Cornell:

Truth be told, I lived the first two years in fear of Thursdays. I had nightmares about that overflowing yellow box, which sometimes held as much as 25 pounds of vegetables. I dug disgusting things out of our crisper drawers and cried when I had to throw food away. And I still found myself picking up vegetables at the grocery store: My husband had a yen for green peppers, say, or I needed eggplant for a recipe.

For now, we are pleased to know we're enjoying fresh local produce. I'm keeping inspired by the possibilities the recipes present. Have you ever participated in a CSA? How did it go for you? What other good farm shares are available in the area? Let us know in the comments.