My introduction to community-supported agriculture wasn't through a real CSA at all, but through something called The Box -- a generic subscription-based box of organic produce much like it sounds. My roommate and I were in our early 20s, sharing a one-bedroom, and we didn't cook much. She suggested we go with a farm she'd heard of (there were only a handful of CSAs in the area at the time), but we both decided that we liked The Box's huge selection, which wasn't limited by location or season (they even had mangoes in winter).
In truth, The Box did very little to connect me with my foodshed; I didn’t learn anything about the farms behind the food nor, I’ll admit, did I care much at the time. On the other hand, it was through this service that I developed a borderline-unhealthy obsession with cooking everything we’d gotten one week before the next delivery arrived. I also learned that I liked chard, fava beans, and a few other seasonal foods I might not have tried. More importantly, I became a Person Who Got a Box of Organic Vegetables Every Week. And, looking back, that was a big step toward becoming the person I am today (a local food- and farm-obsessed gardener and home cook who reads and writes about food politics for a living).
This week, I was reminded of those early adventures with The Box while exploring the current state of the CSA -- a subset of the organic food world that is at a crossroads, much like the larger organic industry. What started out as a great way for small farmers to reach a direct audience -- a way for die-hard locavores to “buy in” to a single farm and take on the risks and the benefits of the year's bounty -- has gone mainstream, for better or worse.