Community supported agriculture: is it worth it?

By Taryn Assaf

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a share in a CSA, then you likely already know what they are and how they function. If you don’t (from wikipedia: far more eloquent than me):

“A CSA is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they periodically receive shares of produce.”

“CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership–marketing structure. This kind of farming operates with a much greater degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-producer relationship. The core design includes developing a cohesive consumer group that is willing to fund a whole season’s budget in order to get quality foods.”

CSA theory was developed around three main goals:

“· New forms of property ownership: the idea that land should be held in common by a community through a legal trust, which leases the land to farmers

  • New forms of cooperation: the idea that a network of human relationships should replace the traditional system of employers and employees
  • New forms of economy: that the economy should not be based on increasing profit, but should be based on the actual needs of the people and land involved in an enterprise

Is it worth it to buy your produce from a CSA? If you believe in this economic model of agriculture, then you may very well think so. I had been wondering for some time, and finally decided to buy a share in Gachi (formerly WWOOF) CSA. I chose the basic couple’s basket, which delivers a weekly share of eggs, one type of fruit and a variety of vegetables to your door. You can expect different produce every week, and the produce changes seasonally.

I asked the folks at Gachi if they could send me one box every two weeks, as opposed to one a week, and they happily obliged. I’ll be receiving a box bi-weekly for the next three months, and I’d like to share my thoughts, recipes and reasons for purchasing with you so that you can decide for yourself whether you’d like to support community agriculture.

Spoiler: It’s totally worth it.

To begin, Gachi is not the only CSA offering delivery in Korea, although it is the only strictly English one doing so. You can read about a couple other options in my previous post: Korean Peasants Sow the Seeds of Nation’s Food Sovereignty

Why did I choose Gachi? Above all, because they offered the easiest English option available. With my limited Korean skills, it was much easier for me to access than the other options out there. However, it is relatively limited in terms of items to choose from: while the selection is fairly good, (they offer add-ons of meat, fruit, juice, snacks and bread) they still lack options for seasonings, sauces, and processed foods (they do offer some, just not as many as other groups). However, if you know where to go for quality sides and seasonings, then Gachi is still, in my opinion, the best option for English speakers.

On to the food.

Note: If you don’t cook at home often (like, every day) this is probably way, way too much food for one person per week. Hence the two-week option.

In my first box, I received: 6 eggs, cherry tomatoes, arugula (rocket), 2 cucumbers, 1 zucchini, 2 heads of iceberg lettuce, about 2 cups of basil, a variety of ssam (lettuce and cabbage leaves), green gochu peppers and bok choy. There was green everywhere and I loved it. (apologies, my pictures are NOT of professional foodie status; but trust the meals tasted yum)

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No, I didn’t just eat salad every day, though I definitely could have. Over the two weeks, I managed to use the greens fairly diversely, along with other ingredients I already had to make my meals more balanced. I’m not a vegetarian, but I absolutely whipped up some vegan/vegetarian delights, although some of what I’m going to share with you contains animal protein.

The first thing I made was a large pot of dwenjang soup with the bok choy and green gochu. I added mushrooms that I bought from the market. No pics, but it was enough to feed 6 guests I had for lunch. I could have easily split it up for smaller portions of any soup or stir-fry.

I used some zucchini to make zoodles (zucchini noodles) and whipped up a salmon dish. The zoodles were mixed with carrots and stewed tomatoes, both of which I had lying around. I seared the salmon in lemon butter:

FullSizeRenderI used the rest of the zucchini to make zucchini chips.

First thing I thought of when I saw the basil: pesto (recipe here. note: you can sub pine nuts with walnuts and pecorino cheese with parm or romano cheese). 2 cups of basil made a load of pesto: I ate pesto pasta for 3 meals this week, and froze the rest. In my first pesto pasta, I sautéed the cherry tomatoes; in my second, I mixed some greens in, and in the final, I seared some Hanu as a nice topper:

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I used the remainder of the basil, some ssam leaves, green gochu and some cucumber as an inspiration for vegan rice paper rolls, accompanied by some peanut sauce. I added carrot, mushrooms, and mint that I had in my fridge.

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I used my now wilting greens to make a warm salad. First, I sautéed some onion and garlic in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then, I added the greens and let them wilt. I tossed some roasted potatoes in for good measure as well. (Tip for your greens: wash them immediately and then transfer them into an airtight container. They’ll keep for longer in the fridge this way)

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The eggs I ate nearly immediately: 6 eggs was not enough. I did make a lovely kyeran jjim (egg stew), though.

All in all, I feel great about supporting Gachi farmers. I’m (partially) engaging in a model of agriculture I believe in, and the food is damn good. The box is not meant as a total substitute for your diet. You need to supplement in order to create well balanced meals, although it is a wonderful foundation that inspired me to be more creative with my cooking. I can’t wait to see what comes next week! I hope this post has made the decision easier for some, and that it has introduced others to a more responsible food system. But to everyone, no matter what you choose, I must say, bon-appetit!

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