Of gardens and CSAs

I started gardening ages ago, when I was a wee bumpkin and didn't know that watermelons were NOT tropical fruit... I had pushed some saved seeds into the warm soil, and was ecstatic to find little shoots pushing through a week later!

My watermelons did not produce that year -after all, it was July when I planted those seeds, much too late to produce melons over here. I've tried to have a garden ever since, wherever I lived, though it wasn't always easy. It was a tough learning curve: adapting what I had learned during 15 years of gardening in Montreal to really hot and humid summers in Japan; container gardening in hot and dry Eastern France; and rainy London.

I think London was the hardest, since I had no garden whatsoever, just a giant pot, and despite having a much longer growing season than Canada, the lack of sun in the UK makes it really difficult to grow tomatoes, a crop I have never had problems with before.

Now that I am back in Montreal, with access to a back yard, I can let myself go and dig into the dirt. So I have to contend with that rascal Molly, she can be quite entertaining. I even miss her if I don't see every once in a while...
I get an immense sense of satisfaction knowing that part of my meal was produce through my own hard work. Everything tastes better when you know that you put lots of love into it.

But I get it: not everyone has a green thumb -though they aren't hard to come by; not everyone has access to a bit of soil- even if a pot is all the space you need to grow some tomatoes... gardening is a commitment of sorts, and it definitely requires a bit of an investment at the beginning. So what are you to do if you can't do the gardening but would like to taste the love? Farmers' markets are a great option, but unfortunately, these are not always accessible to everyone, your other option is the CSA.

CSAs (community supported agriculture) are becoming increasingly popular, and they are even sprouting in towns that do not have farmers' markets. CSAs allow you the customer to have weekly access to fresh produce, very often organic, for a very affordable price, all the while helping out farmers. Since you pay upfront for the deliveries, the growers get a steady cash flow at the beginning of the season, when they most need it. Plus, they know that their produce will find a home at harvest.

Each farm or co-op in the programme runs slightly differently. Some provide year-round baskets, others only during the summer growing season. Certain farms will supply you with all the fixings for a meal (veggies, fruits and meat or eggs), while others only have vegetables. But you can be assured that everything will be extra fresh. And that you are helping to preserve small farms.

And inexpensive. The farm I subscribe to (D-Trois Pierres in the West Island) only produces vegetables, so I signed up for the smallest basket (1-3 persons). It costs 375$ for the 20-week season: that comes up to 18.75$/week. The baskets are too big for me, so I share them with my mother (9.40$ each). Every week, my fridge is full to bursting with all sorts of vegetables. Ten dollars wouldn't stretch half as far in a supermarket, or even at a farmers' market.

For more information, you should have a look at Équiterre's website. They also provide links to all the farms in Quebec that are part of the CSA programme. It might not be too late to join since some farms deliver year-round. If you live in Toronto, here a link to Vanessa Farquharson's blog, where you'll find some info on CSAs in TO.


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