Morgantown has a few different CSAs from which to choose, but the premise is basically the same - a farmer offers "shares" to the public. The public can buy "shares," which gives them a box of vegetables weekly through the season.
So, you pay a certain amount and, in turn, receive fresh, oftentimes new-to-you foods while developing a relationship with the farmer. The farmer has a steady steam of income up front to help with cost while also getting to know the consumer. The "shares" come with risk, though, as members pay up front, creating a safety net for farmers if the season is poor. So if the weather does not cooperate that particular season, it will reflect in the vegetables. But farmers do the best they can to provide as many fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers.
There is a good bit of variation in what kinds of vegetables you get. Many folks are worried they might receive 100 zucchinis in their CSA box or that there will be too many veggies for them. I chose Round Right Farm, which is great for me. I chose a Fall share because it's only four weeks long so I could get a feel for how much produce. Since it's just me, I didn't want anything going to waste.
They also allow for a lot of flexibility. They generate a box each week, and I could see the contents, but then I could also swap items out if I so chose. Each vegetable had an assigned value so I could mix and match, with each box totaling in around $20ish. So, if they gave me Swiss Chard, Arugula and Collard Greens one week and I decided that was way too many greens, I could swap out two of them for carrots or potatoes, if they are around the same price. If they are not around the same price, I was allowed a rollover amount to the next week or I could pay the extra at the end of the season if I went over. The rollover is particularly nice. If you need less veggies one week but know you will need more the next, you can only choose a few and save that amount for the next week. Or cancel one whole box and double-up the next week. If my entire box was worth about $25 this week, I could swap everything around and mix and match items until I got back to around that same amount. Or not.
Round Right also offers the option to add on bread from New Day Bakery or cheese from a few different cheese places: Firefly Farms, Goot Essa and Spring Gap.
Before fall started, they also let me order a la carte during summer - which is great since I couldn't do a full box each week. But I could get things here and there as I needed them.
Each week, at a designated drop-off point, you can pick up your veggies and have half your grocery shopping done for that week. And you've already paid for it up front. So, each week I would fetch my bin, pack up my veggies and head home. Here's what I received during my four weeks.
Week 1 - Arugula, radishes, Napa cabbage, small butternut squash, small pie pumpkin, potatoes and garlic. I mostly got the arugula for Franklin, my turtle. I made cabbage and potatoes with kielbasa (and garlic). A delicious butternut squash, parmesan cheese dip, a radish dip with cream cheese and the tops were used in a tomato tortellini soup.
Week 2 - Hakurei turnips, celeriac, garlic, delicata squash, carrots, small butternut squash, collard greens, beets and potatoes. Collard Greens went to Franklin (though he wasn't crazy about them). I developed a love for Hakurei turnips! I just roasted them with the garlic and went to town. The carrots and beets were shredded for a beet salad with gorgonzola (whew, beets are a pain). And the potatoes went to mashed potatoes. The squash? Squash fries! Yum.
Week 3 - baby bok choi, swiss chard, garlic, French breakfast radishes, hakurei turnips, leeks and potatoes. I gave one bok choy away and made a stir fry with some leeks with the turnips. I ate the radishes as a snack because yum! And the potatoes were baked.
Week 4 - green cabbage, lots of garlic, hakurei turnips and radishes. I just got this one, so I'm still working on it! But I did roast some of the turnips and snacked on a few radishes so far.
So, this is a great thing for me. I learned how to cook with a few new foods and discovered ones I like. I did customize my box every week because I was over squash (and am now over turnips). But you can never have too much garlic. I love roasting garlic and using it in everything. But it's also great to know this is all local, I'm helping a local farmer (instead of spending this money in Kroger), and it's already done for me - I just had to pick it up. However, I don't think I could use this much produce every week during the summer - those CSAs are a lot longer. If I had someone to split it with, then it might be do-able. Also, I am kind of tired of fall veggies at this point. But, still, super cool and a great option - especially for families.