Down to Earth: Are Your Kids Ready for a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to expand your kids love, or at least tolerance, of vegetables.

I’ll admit it, my kids do pretty well in the vegetable department. My daughter asks for broccoli and my son loves green beens. That being said, the mere thought of carrots makes that same son gag, and I think I have the only child in the world who turns her nose up at sweet potatoes!

So, in an effort to introduce my kids to new vegetables and take my new-found cooking skills to the next level (albeit a low level), I decided to try out a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share last summer.

CSAs are an amazing concept where a group of individuals support a local farm by buying into a “share” of the crops before the season begins, giving the farm much needed cash to seed their crops. Many CSAs offer half shares, plant your own shares and work shares. There are also winter shares at some farms and I am currently looking into a  

Knowing last summer's CSA venture would be a true experiment with my kids, I asked a neighbor to split the share with me. I had heard the shares can be quite large. Every Wednesday afternoon (pick up days vary from farm to farm) we headed over to our local farm with reusable bags for the pickup. The farm displays the vegetables (and sometimes flowers and fruit) in bins and posts a list of how much of each item you can take. Our farm even offered an egg share and a wine share from a local winery.

My kids took their reusable bags and went from bin to bin taking the share of each vegetable as noted on the black board. They asked so many questions about the vegetables (why was there still dirt on some of them, why did they look different from the vegetables in the supermarket, why they had leaves still on them, etc.) that the mere act of picking up the food was a learning experience. By the time we got home with our loot, they were eager to help wash it all and start dinner with one of our share items.

Family favorites from our CSA share include basil, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon and summer squash. My favorite treat is cooked beets with goat cheese, and roasting all the amazing vegetables at 450 degrees with a little kosher salt and olive oil. It is so easy, and amazingly delicious.

Each week I got an e-mail from the CSA farm with a list of what to expect at pick up, crop updates, recipes and thoughts from the farmers. I would tell the kids what vegetables to expect at the pickup and they would actually get excited for pick up day. It felt super local and the food was top notch. My kids loved doing the pickups and sometimes grabbed for the vegetables before we even got home.

In my many trips to  here in Lexington, I saw that they are having Their share starts in early June and runs 20 weeks. What is nice about this CSA (aside from the farm's excellent reputation) is that they have two pickup days, and their hours run from noon to 7 p.m., allowing a little extra time after work to pick up the share. CSA members also get a 10 percent discount at the farm stand on pick up day.

also has a CSA, which it runs by giving members a coupon book, to redeem at the farm stand. Also, members can pick from the fields certain designated vegetables to buy at a reduced price .

My CSA experience was fun and very educational. My kids and I learned a lot about vegetables we don’t typically reach for, and I learned that kids do much better trying new foods if they are involved in the process. If nothing else, it showed them that food comes from the earth – not plastic packaging in a super market.

Denise J. Dubé March 15, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Great column Audra!
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Thanks Denise! It was a great experience. I am eager to try the community supported fishery.
Martha Creedon March 15, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Anyone interested in a local CSA and fabulous family programming ought to check out Waltham Fields Community Farm - shares still available, including half-price subsidized shares for qualifying households. http://communityfarms.org Martha Creedon, Waltham
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Thanks Martha. There are some great CSA's out there to be had.
Gail Palmer March 15, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Great article Audra. We did our first CSA last summer too and my boys loved picking up the vegetables, commenting on the sometimes funny shapes, weighing the vegetables and also had lots of fun on the days when we could actually go out into the fields and pick our own. It was a great experience for all and I highly recommend it to others.
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Hi Gail! I bet Davis and Alex loved it! It is a great thing for kids to see food being grown and not just piled up in a supermarket.
Heather March 15, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Awesome! How do I get info on csa's in Santa clarita ca?
Heather March 15, 2011 at 05:41 PM
How do I get info for my area in Santa clarita ca?
Jeff Rockwood March 15, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Nice job little sister! Now if only the USDA's Farm to School program would have more supporters and funding, then the school lunch programs and school students would benefit greatly!!
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Heather, I use www.localharvest.org. Start there and then ask around at local farmers markets or super markets with a big organic section or a whole foods.
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Yes Jeff! Let's get this amazing food into our school kids. Maybe that is my next article....
Denise Fernandez March 15, 2011 at 06:04 PM
WOW....amazing article....I will look up with website that you gave to Heather. I always go to the Farmer's Market in the summer but a great idea to support local and have a gte harvest......Plus you have me thinking of spring which is always a good thing!!!!!!!
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Thanks D! You and Heather are perfect for a CSA...your boys will have fun with it. Think Spring!!
elaine boettcher March 15, 2011 at 06:14 PM
This is a great article. I went to the fishery site and now, finally, I can have some really fresh fish to go with my roasted vegetables. A fine contribution. Keep them coming.
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Thank you Elaine! I would love to try the fishery...we are in a fish rut right now and adding some new fish to my repertoire would be nice.
Hagit Abraham March 15, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Thanks for sharing, Audra! I really enjoyed the reading and the new information. Now I'm jealous (of both your writing and your cooking skills) and hungry :-)
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Thanks Hagit. My writing skills are much better than my cooking skills but having to cook for 2 hungry mouths and my husband made me step it up a notch for sure...
Gini Shevrin March 15, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Be aware as you are choosing a CSA, that you need to ask a few questions. Are you looking for organic produce? You won't find much of that from Wilson Farms, and only some of the produce from Busa is organic. Are you trying to support a small farm operation? Ask the farmers how much of their income comes from the CSA. Be sure you know what you're getting. What does locally produced mean to you? Do you want veggies grown within 10 miles? 15? 35? Ask where the veggies are actually coming from! Be an informed consumer. And enjoy those fruits & veggies!!
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 06:49 PM
All good points Gini. While Wilson Farm's CSA isn't organic they do practice IPM growing techniques (such as sanitation, soil enrichment, variety selection, pest detection, and biological controls which can control insect pests and diseases on crops with minimal chemical usage). It is always good to ask as many questions as you can so you know exactly what you are getting. Thanks for the feedback!
Laura Barrett March 15, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Awesome job, Audra! This would be a great article to give to teachers and have them send the kids home with it - I bet it would be fun for the teachers to even plan a lesson around CSAs, or any aspect of food production. I teach this sort of thing to my college level students (in order to get them to write an essay about a currently debated/discussed topic like factory farming), and I'm always amazed at how little people know about the food they eat everyday. I show them the movie "Food, Inc." and supplement it with readings from Mark Bittman, Anthony Bourdain and Michael Pollan. Keep it up!
Audra Myerberg March 15, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Thanks Laura! You will do need to educate yourself on the topic. There is a lot of junk out there and junk disguised as good food. I have actually learned a lot since the kids were born and enjoy learning more and teaching them (and my husband). Thanks for doing your part too!!
Leigh Bridge March 15, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Interesting article Audra. It is hard for me to get veggies into my daughter and I noticed last summer that she enjoyed helping me pick out the veggies and fruits at our local farm roadstand. I agree that if they are involved in the process, they'll have the tendency to try more new and different foods. I'll have to see if there are CSAs in our area because it sounds like a great idea!
Audra Myerberg March 16, 2011 at 12:13 AM
I have found hands on is a great approach to food. Good luck with it and let me know if you need help finding a CSA.....
Jessica Green March 16, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Yum yum the cooked beets and goat cheese sound delicious! Have you heard of any CSA's where the consumer has some input into the type of produce that is part of the share each week? I think a CSA is a great idea but wonder if we would routinely be stuck with many items that would go uneaten.
Maria March 16, 2011 at 11:07 AM
Sounds like a great life lesson for the kids. I will try and apply this idea where I live in PA with my kids. They eat veggies mainly because I force them and withhold dessert. Maybe this plan will get them more interested in healthier options.
Audra Myerberg March 16, 2011 at 11:32 AM
My kids love beets....that surprised me! I have not heard of any CSA's where you can choose what vegetables you get but the one I did this past summer did have a swap bin. You can leave what you dont want and take what someone else didnt want....I ended up juicing what we didnt eat and that worked out well.
Audra Myerberg March 16, 2011 at 11:34 AM
Nothing wrong with withholding dessert in my opinion. We always do a fruit after dinner and that usually works as dessert but sometimes we do both and if they haven't made a great effort at dinner, no dessert.
Michelene Flanigon March 16, 2011 at 02:40 PM
What a great way to get your kids to try new things. Great suggestion!! Ps. My kids hate sweet potatoes too :)
Audra Myerberg March 16, 2011 at 02:51 PM
but baked sweet potato fries seem OK...thanks Michelene!!


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