I've always been a big fan of farmers markets. I love wandering the colorful rows of tables and examining the fresh produce and other homemade goods. My husband and I have always considered it a treat to go to the Saturday-morning markets, and I always looked forward to mid-March, when the market would open and we'd be teased with plants to add to the year's garden.
And then I moved to Indiana. Here, the planting season starts about a month later than in Kansas City, and the markets don't even open until June. In my community, there's a small market, open a few short months, and I'm limited to a few tables with the same offerings: tomatoes, peppers, beans and corn.
There are other markets, but those require a long drive (30-90 minutes), something that's difficult to do with young children and becoming more of an issue with soaring gas prices.
Then, about a year ago I read an article in Time magazine about community supported agriculture, or CSAs. I loved the idea that people could buy into a program where you could be treated with fresh produce on a weekly basis. I investigated on localharvest.org, but the closest program I could find delivered 45 minutes from my home. Not convenient, and certainly not cost-effective.
I tried again this year and was fortunate enough to find a program that has a delivery point on my drive home from work. While it's expensive to invest in the program (payment for the season is required up-front so that the farmers can purchase seed and supplies for the season), beginning in May we'll have a weekly bounty of 10 quarts or so of organic produce of all kinds to sample. The offerings include everything from the traditional tomatoes and lettuces to foods outside my comfort zone - rhutabaga and other produce that I wouldn't normally jump to buy on my own.
All of this for less than $20 a week, far less than I'd spend on impulse purchases at the market. Now, we'll see if my toddler will buy into it!