If you ask our West Allis Farmers Market “Guy” Bryan about change, his standard line to your nickel and dime question is, “It happens slowly and must come from within”. As I’ve been talking with many of you during CSA pick ups, I’m hearing stories of change.
Change not only in what you eat, but how you eat. As I listen, I’m reminded of the growth curve associated with being a CSA member. We’ve found that for most people it takes three years to “get” CSA.
First year members find that they are using just more than half of the items that come home in their share. At the end of the first year, a third of you try another CSA, thinking that it was simply a poor match between you and the farm; a third of you will decide that CSA itself is not a good match; and a third of you will return to JenEhr as CSA members for a second year.
By the end of year two, those who stayed with JenEhr will find they’re using about 80% of everything in their share. But this year, instead of feeling like food is being wasted, most members figured how to effectively share with neighbors, friends and family. For the third that went to another farm, about half of you will bounce to another farm, thinking that once again it wasn’t a good “match” between you and the farm. The reminder may not be CSA members again, but you will go outside of the grocery store route in your food shopping, looking for more local and fresh.
Year three is Golden. This is the year when CSA members feel they’ve finally come into their own; when you use 100% of the produce in your share, often wondering how to get more. You don’t find rotted vegetables in your crisper drawer, you’re using the green tops of beets, carrots and turnips. While you still might not like beets, you’ve found that you don’t detest them and even have a few recipes that two years ago you’d have never even considered trying. Year three is when you’re looking to purchase 20-pound boxes of tomatoes, extra broccoli and even using all of your kale. Each week you’re using all the items in your share to prepare daily meals, with very few leftovers
and scant amounts in the freezer (thus the extra purchases).
Day to day, we don’t see the change that occurs in our lives. But one day, we blink, we notice that our children are taller and older, our parents are no longer 50 years old and the world around us is different. Being a CSA member is the same. Each week you start by struggling to use all the produce in your share, but by the end of the season, you easily handle meal preparation with beets, napa cabbage and green garlic. A bunch of radishes no longer makes you anxious, but prompts all sorts of ideas of salads, slaws and a gift to your elderly neighbor.
What you don’t see is an even bigger change – that you’re eating better, you’re teaching your children, parents and those around about eating more nutritiously and your’re keeping your food dollars locally, a huge change in the lives of your community, county and state.