Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
We are pretty fortunate to walk into a grocery store at any time of the year and purchase out of season produce. Or are we? Strawberries are trucked from California, oranges are flown from South America, what ever happened to getting produce locally? One still can get local produce through a program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
How a CSA works
• Choose a CSA. There are two popular CSA programs in Vigo County. They are Healthy Hoosiers and a CSA program run by the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.
• Contact Information:
Healthy Hoosiers — healthyhoosierscsa.com/join/
White Violet Center (812) 535-2933
• Sign up for a share or half a share, if available.
• Pick up food at designated location each week.
Charity Mouck coordinates the local CSA Healthy Hoosier. Charity became involved a few years ago when she became a member and bought a share.
“One share means one box of food every week for 25 weeks. It is basically half of the whole year,” Mouck said.
Before Charity became a member, dinner was different at her house. She would find herself going out to eat a lot more. When she did stay at home to cook she would get her produce either from a can or from a freezer bag. Now that she joined a CSA and helps operate one, dinner is different.
“It revolutionized the way we ate,” Mouck said.
Charity says when you go to the grocery store and buy your food in a bag or a can, you don’t really know anything about that food. You don’t know where it was grown, how it was grown and what was done to your food during the processing. With a CSA it is different.
“The food literally gets picked on the morning of the delivery, put in a box and comes to your house. We work with one farmer. We know who he is, we know how he treats his crops,” Mouck said.
The concept of farm to plate is one KinderCenter business owner Rhonda Mitchell is keen on. Rhonda joined the CSA because she found it to be the easiest way to find fresh produce that is free of pesticides and chemicals. Getting produce that is picked and delivered the morning of is a plus for her too.
“You are getting as close to 100 percent of the nutritional value in the food as is possible. I run my own business which takes tons of time and energy. I have to eat well to maintain my energy level,” Mitchell said.
Fit for those with little space
Gardening is not for everybody. Gardening takes a lot of time, care and energy. But there is something memorable about the smell and taste of a ripe garden tomato. Let’s face it, not everybody has a green thumb or the space for a plentiful garden. Supporting a CSA is one way to get around not having to work or care for a garden but enjoy the benefits of one.
“I heard of the program by ‘word of mouth.’ I used to plant a sizable garden each year, but had to give it up due to a lack of space at our current home,” CSA member Timothy Prickel said.
Expect the unexpected
As a past and present shareholder, Rhonda says the down side is you only get what is in season at that time. She says most people are so far removed from the source of their food that they don’t realize that in any geographical location, only certain foods are in season at any given time. Rhonda reminds people that it is not like a grocery store. You are going to probably get some foods that you are not familiar with or maybe don’t like.
“This is not a program in which you only get typical vegetables, for example green beans. They have different types of vegetables for example squash, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, etc., things that I did not routinely have on my menu at home. The program provides a chance to try different foods. I have to admit, I never had Swiss chard before I joined the CSA and I fell in love with Swiss chard. It is fun to Google different recipes,” Prickel said.
There is nothing like being hit with a $450 bill. CSA organizers say it is good to plan to join a CSA so the upfront cost does not become a barrier. The good news is some CSA programs offer payment plans.
“You have to remember this is a 25-week season, that is literally six months out of the year. It averages around $17 a week. If you went to a typical grocery store and tried to buy the amount of organic produce that we get on a typical week, it would be really hard to do for $17,” Mouck said.
Healthy Hoosiers CSA hopes to start delivering shares around May 14. Meanwhile the CSA at the White Violet Center will kick-off with a pot-luck on June 14. The pot-luck allows CSA members to meet one another, see the farm and enjoy tasty food.