In the Denver doldrums of winter, the landscape can be colorless and local produce can be sparing. Most Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and farmers markets stop selling food in winter, so organic veggies are only found in the produce section of the grocery store. But now is the time to start planning for the summertime harvest, which usually lasts from May through October.
How do CSAs work?
Local farmers have a set number of shares that the public can buy. This works like a membership or subscription, which provides shareholders (or members) with a box of vegetables or other goods on a regular basis for a set duration of time. This allows farmers to receive money before any products are harvested — thereby helping to make the business more sustainable. It also allows customers fresh, local food — oftentimes delivered straight to their door. Many CSAs offer discounts if you sign up in the late winter.
How do farmers’ markets work?
A farmers’ market is like a one-stop-shop for customers on the hunt for fresh, local food. Usually held in big parking lots or warehouses, farmers markets allow ranchers, farmers and other local vendors to all sell their goods together. In Denver, these happen twice a week at many locations, like near Cherry Creek Mall or near Stapleton.
Which is best for you?
If you like variety in your produce — and aren’t afraid of a few mystery gourds every now and then — consider a CSA. You will automatically get a box of fresh goodies, some of which you wouldn’t normally buy. This option also helps support a specific farmer at the beginning of the season, as opposed to offering less money on a less consistent basis to whichever farmer who happens to sell you food at the farmers’ market.
If you’d rather size up your own tomatoes before buying them, you or someone in your house is a picky produce eater (aren’t most kids?) or you don’t think you can consume the amount of produce that comes from a CSA, go for the farmer’s market. This can also be a fun family outing and summer tradition that not only supports local farmers but also gets the family excited about eating veggies!
While local produce in March might mean another bunch of kale or sack of potatoes, take heart! The colorful produce of summer is just around the corner.