In our home Thursday is veggie day. And nothing is better than veggie day. The kiddos wait patiently for daddy to carry in the box that he’s picked up on his way home from work and we immediately get to unpacking it. Corn, okra, squash, tomatoes, eggplant – each are unearthed from our sturdy brown box to oohs and ahhs from the peanut gallery. If there are colorful peppers Sarah will immediately demand to have one sliced. Peaches are instantly peeled for B-Ro. Okra always get a low “mmmmmmm” from Brent. And whatever strange variety of eggplant happens to arrive that week gives cause for this mama’s creative wheels to start turning.

Last spring we thought we’d try our hand at gardening. The bounty was plentiful. If “bounty” could be translated to mean lots of time together, memories made, a few green tomatoes, rampant basil and enough zucchini to meet Ephraim’s two bite quota. Our hearts were in it but luck and critters were not on our side. Thankfully that’s also when we discovered Grow Alabama.

And we learned that Community Supported Agriculture is a beautiful thing.

I can’t even tell you how blessed I feel that we have such an amazing opportunity YEAR ROUND to purchase Alabama-grown fruits and vegetables. And the blessings don’t just abound for the consumer. Grow Alabama’s mission is to support the family consumers as well as the family farmers. Straight from their website:

“The purpose of Grow Alabama is to reverse the ratio of foods consumed in Alabama to foods grown in Alabama, thereby increasing the production and the profitability of all Alabama farmers. This will enhance the economic viability of all rural Alabama and bring economic and environmental sustainability to the state, while giving the people that we serve the highest quality food available.”

Now that is something I can get behind. We love Grow Alabama. Not just for the amazing variety of fresh food they put on our table each week but for their commitment to the family farm. 

Anyone reading who has spent much time with small children knows it can be a struggle to get proper fuel into their little bodies. This is certainly true at our house as well. But something about opening that box is so exciting for my children. If they want to try something, I wash it and let them. I cut things up and put them in accessible containers in the refrigerator, putting no limits on how many fruits and vegetables they can eat (or when). Grow Alabama sends us the most amazing bibb lettuce and Sarah devours it like a little rabbit. I’ll never forget the night we sat around with friends in our living room, sharing root beer floats. Sarah stopped midway through hers and said, “I’m done Mommy…can I have some of that green stuff in the fridge?” When she walked back into the room with fistfuls of lettuce I thought all the adults in the room would die on the spot (including myself). Our veggie box is magical.

Beyond the excitement it gives the kiddos, I am thrilled to be eating seasonally. We eat more vegetables than we ever have because I can’t stand to see the beauties go to waste. I take it as a personal challenge to make sure all the vegetables we receive are used by the time our next box arrives. And believe me, we get the largest box and it’s hard. If it comes down to it I’ll give things away or freeze them. But I can’t stand to toss them. Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is an amazing resource for creating entire meals around whatever vegetables arrive each week. It’s also taught me some strategies for throwing together my own veggie inspired meals.

Last week I ate this twice:

Don’t ask me what it’s called ’cause I made it up. It has no name. But it’s scrambled eggs topped with heirloom tomatoes (they’re green but they’re not unripe), corn planks, buttery cheese crumbles and cracked pepper. YUM.

I made a quick tomato sauce with eggplant puree last night. Butter beans and okra are on the menu for tomorrow. And a midsummer veggie burger (Thanks Mr. Bittman) later this week. It just doesn’t get any better…or fresher…than that.

And the biggest Grow Alabama bonus of the entire summer? They reward referrers with a free box for each new customer. Which means that over the course of the last year as I’ve mentioned them on my blog or to friends or to clients, I’ve earned 11 free boxes of vegetables. It will be October before I pay for another bite of Alabama produce.

Community Supported Agriculture is a beautiful thing.

jerry spencerAugust 15, 2010 - 12:17 pm

thank you for the nice words.

LaurenAugust 15, 2010 - 12:58 pm

Thanks for the info. I wonder if they ship to Troy – – I’ll have to check on their website. We love fresh farm vegetables and our garden didn’t do well at all this year. What a nice idea to order fresh farm veggies grown locally in a box.

adminAugust 15, 2010 - 1:06 pm

Lauren they deliver to certain pickup spots in several towns and cities in Alabama. Check their website or inquire with the contact page on their site. If they don’t already deliver to Troy they may start if you can get enough new customers.

Lorena MoraAugust 15, 2010 - 1:57 pm

I wonder if they have this in California. Vegetables are always a battle in my home, I sometimes puree them just so I can get them to eat them.

tara pollard pakostaAugust 15, 2010 - 4:00 pm

I always wanted to try this here, I must look into it!

TammyAugust 15, 2010 - 4:29 pm

I wish we had this in Texas.

reneeAugust 15, 2010 - 4:57 pm

i LOVE my csa. it’s like christmas morning once a week… you never know what’s going to come in the box! oh and ps everyone, they probably DO have at least one (if not more) CSA program in your area– give it a google!

tamAugust 15, 2010 - 6:33 pm

I also love my CSA. I pick up my produce every friday from the farm. Some veggies are unlimited. Last week, I picked 6 pounds of beans to freeze. It’s great to eat local and support small farms.

JodiAugust 15, 2010 - 7:17 pm

Yes! But you’re making me feeling sorry for the photos of my girls diving into our mountain of local produce that having been sitting on my laptop, unblogged, for two weeks now!
Kelly eats tomatoes like they are apples and is the only 1 1/2 year old I know with a penchant for pluots.
(And I’m just about to hire someone to clean too… miss you but love that we’re living the same life right now!)

Lindey MageeAugust 15, 2010 - 10:53 pm

erin, i love this post! yummo at all the fresh, local produce…no better way to go for a multitude of reasons! if you haven’t seen the movie food, inc. you would surely appreciate it! so revealing and has changed our families view of what we put in our bodies and why :o)

Nancy McPeakAugust 16, 2010 - 9:15 pm

Hi Erin,
I tried to sign up for your newsletter and the link that was sent to me for confirmation doesn’t work. It just leads me right back to the blog and there is no confirmation. Just thought you would want to know. Hope I am signed up!

JenniferAugust 17, 2010 - 4:22 am

I wish my family would eat more veggies! Tyler won’t really eat any veggies anymore (and you can’t force a 20-year old) and the hubby isn’t far behind. 🙁

Lisa MAugust 17, 2010 - 8:27 am

Wow – what timing of this blog post. I live in CA, but was just researching CSA’s in our area two nights ago. I’ve made the pledge to try and take my family pesticide and hormone free, cage free, etc, and I think the CSA veggie/fruit boxes will be magicial! Thanks for the link to the cookbook – I will be checking that out for sure. And to think I popped over courtesy of Snapshot of a Goodlife to check out processing info!! This was such a great bonus. Thanks for a great post! ~Lisa

AmyAugust 17, 2010 - 2:40 pm

Wow–that is an awesome looking box of veggies! I love our local farm delivery bag, but must admit that Montana’s growing soils just aren’t quite as fruitful as Alabama’s!

I’ll have to check out Bittman’s book. I love his “How to Cook Everything”. I’m looking for a recipe for some funky sort of green bean we got last week!

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