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The Local Beet: Celebrating the bounty of the season as a member of a community supported agriculture farm

This week's Turtle Island CSA Share (except the peaches, blueberries and flowers)

This week's Turtle Island CSA Share (except the peaches, blueberries and flowers) /Lisa Rose Starner

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Amanda DeVries (daughter of Farmers' Rose & James) with her basil at the Fulton Market.

Amanda DeVries (daughter of Farmers' Rose & James) with her basil at the Fulton Market. /Lisa Rose Starner

Patty Pan Squash

Patty Pan Squash /Lisa Rose Starner

Besides growing your own food, being a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm is an excellent way to be connected to local farmers and the land they cultivate. As a member of a CSA, a family (or individual) pays the farmer a fee for a season's "share" to then receive back the weekly "profits" (as produce) that farm produces during the season. The CSA model is gaining momentum, particularly as farmers look for new financial models to keep their farms financial viable, as well as environmentally sustainable.

Our family has been a member of a CSA farm for five of the past seven years. For a few years, we were members of Trillium Haven Farm, in Jenison. The first season or two were a challenge for me, trying to learn new recipes for the produce we would receive as part of our weekly share. After a while, I developed a rhythm of prepping the whole foods to use throughout the week and I had mastered a collection of recipes for the many greens, kale and new veggies that came fresh from the soil (particularly my own nemesis, the kohlrabi) throughout the season.  

This past year, I was late signing up for Trillium Haven and by the time I approached Anja to sign up in early spring, it was full. While our children were really bummed (they love visiting the farmer's kids at the farm), it gave me a chance to better acquaint our family with other farmers who farmed organically. 

So, we joined  Turtle Island Farm and their new CSA program. Turtle Island Farm is located in Ravenna and they attend Fulton Street Farmer's Market several times a week. We've been getting our weekly produce from Turtle Island this season for about six weeks and the membership will continue through the end of the growing season. Each week, the share has been abundant and I've really enjoyed their pick-up at the Fulton Market -- that's been very easy for me, and has allowed me to do all of my market shopping in one trip. 

Just this week, our share included a variety of summer squashes, okra, basil, lettuces, tuscano kale, beets, cabbage, cucumbers, green onions, garlic, scallions, dill and heirloom tomatoes. The only other produce I picked up at the market from different vendors were peaches, blueberries, bread and eggs. 

Upon returning home from the market on Saturday, I spent an hour lovingly prepping my vegetables to ensure they didn't wilt prematurely (because salad left in a bag to asphyxiate itself just really is a bummer). And having everything cleaned, prepped and at the ready makes for easy meal assembly for my family during the hectic work-week.

What a blessing and bounty, eh? I can't help but give thanks to the sun, land and my farmers for the nourishment that is offered to us. Between the CSA and my gardens, we are surrounded by plenty that will be enjoyed now and throughout the winter as I continue my pickles, canning, jams, and freezing.

And while I am still getting to know the farmers at Turtle Island (I want to visit their farm before the season is out and feature them here), being a member of their CSA makes me feel good because I know that our membership helps keep them going financially throughout the growing season.  And we all want to help support our local farmers, right?

I encourage you get to know the farmers at Turtle Island as I am doing. You don't have to be a member to get their produce.  Stop by their stand at the Fulton Market (white van, east side of the market) and check out the organic foods they have to offer. They always have beautiful food at their market stand at very reasonable prices. Take a moment to chat with Jim and Rosalie, too. And buy some of their veggies to take home with you. You'll walk away satisfied that you paid for good food from wonderful people who care for their land deeply. Maybe that will even encourage you to visit their farm, too.

Getting to know our farmers personally really does make a difference - it helps grow our community.

(Grand Rapids is seeing its CSA farms grow in number - to find one near you, visit Local Harvest).

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Joining Groundswell's CSA with my roommate and his family has been a truly transformative experience. Mostly because I am lazy and the pick up point is around the corner from my house - all those delicious veggies come pretty much directly to me! 

Is it expensive to join a CSA? 

I really like the idea of one stop (for the most part) of a CSA. While I like going to the market, the stopping at many stalls, digging around for cash and lugging stuff isn't my favorite activity.

My CSA is around $400 total, which would definitely be out of my budget range were I a sole-subscriber, but I split my CSA in 4 ways with my roommate and his parents. Sam and I each put down a $100 (his parents also put down $100 each) and the two households take alternating weeks - their is more than enough delicious veggies in each pick up to last for two weeks. I know some other friends who have been sole subscribers in the past, but it ended up being too much food for them so they decided to sponsor another family the second year.

I think if you can find another household to help shoulder both the burden of paying for it and the delight of eating it - it can be a really great deal.

I got garlic scapes from them! It was pretty amazing.

My mom used to make kohlrabi for us all the time when we were growing up. She'd slice them up (avoid the purple ones; they're way bitter and dry), douse them in sesame oil and sprinkle with salt. Rivals those cool cucumbers for me.