I joined my first CSA the summer of 2010 – my first summer out in Michigan. I was definitely unprepared for it. I had a whole share (big mistake!) and the farm I used at the time (which no longer does a CSA) had a habit of handing out produce that was somehow simultaneously soaking web and full of giant organic bugs. I know that bugs are par for the course, but seriously, these were epic bugs. Although I sort of failed at my first year and decided not to sign up for a second year at the old farm, I still wanted to support local farmers. I figured I would just buy produce at the farmers market we have on campus (major perk to being on a rural campus!). But then our campus farm announced they were going to start a very small CSA. I signed up on the spot.
The first year was a challenge for them – the weather was terrible with several flash floods in our area (which is not known for flash floods). They were still setting up drainage and irrigation, and still learning what would grow best on their land. It was hit and miss, but they grew the BEST garlic I’ve ever had. I signed up again for this year, and so far we’ve got some great carrots, garlic(!), a giant zucchini, and kale. The veggies aren’t as unusual or exciting as my old CSA (I’ve actually heard of all the things I get at GVSU), but they’re good and I know how to cook them.
Belonging to a CSA is always rewarding – you get to celebrate bounty with your farmers and learn a little more about the realities of the food chain. For someone like me, who can’t have a garden (we live in a condo), it’s a way to eat seasonally and locally. Belonging to my campus CSA is rewarding for another reason – I get to support GVSU’s students as they learn in a non-traditional environment. As an academic librarian, I support learning in material ways (with books) and in more abstract ways (helping students learn how to manage information overload). But there is something SO FUN about talking to the students who work the farm, seeing them get excited about their crops, and learn about farming and entrepreneurship. Honestly – I would probably join the CSA even if all I got were a few heads of VERY expensive garlic. CSA’s are never REALLY about the food, but this one is even less about what I get. It’s about participating in my University and supporting our students as they learn about the world outside the classroom. The story I always tell is about a student from last year who was just SO EXCITED about this butternut squash that he was going to go home at eat for dinner. He’d never had butternut squash (which I find incredible – but then again my parents planted me a separate squash garden I loved it so much) and now he’s eating one that he grew with his own two hands. It’s rewarding to play a role in that – even if it’s just by buying their produce.