Chris Rosenblum: Turn over a new leaf in 2016

Community Supported Agriculture memberships, such as the one offered by Healthy Harvest Farm, offer chances to buy fresh, seasonal produce and support local farming, says Chris Rosenblum.
Community Supported Agriculture memberships, such as the one offered by Healthy Harvest Farm, offer chances to buy fresh, seasonal produce and support local farming, says Chris Rosenblum. Centre Daily Times

It’s that time again — aim high and fall short.

Every January, we set ourselves up to fail. We dutifully make our New Year’s resolutions, buoyed by holiday glow and optimism. Like Charlie Brown and his football, we’re certain this time will be different, this kick will be the one.

We charge forward and take our shot. Work out more, eat better, lose weight, reduce stress?


I don’t mean to be cynical about our annual stabs at self-improvement. We start with the best of intentions, but all too often, life interferes or we fall back to old patterns as creatures of habit.

Either way, we frequently meet with disappointment. I heard recently that some fitness centers love this month. Supposedly, they receive a surge of new contracts and income but forgo increasing their staffs, figuring that attendance will subside after the initial surge of enthusiasm.

I can’t vouch for that, but it sounds like human nature. When it comes to resolutions, many of us tend to suffer from a kind of attention deficit disorder.

Ultimately, for sticking to resolutions there’s no substitute for plain old resolve. But if your 2016 goals include eating more fruits and vegetables, allow me to suggest a way of helping you literally turn over a new leaf.

Community Supported Agriculture memberships offer chances to buy fresh, seasonal produce and support local farming. In our region, CSA farms have proliferated over the past decade to where, an excellent resource for local food sources nationwide, lists 10 CSA options serving Centre County.

Leafy, juicy crops evoke images of summer but now is the time to investigate joining a CSA for the coming growing season. As winter tapers, shares sell out and wait lists grow faster than zucchini in July.

Fundamentally, CSAs all operate in a similar fashion. Members buy a “share” for a season, entitling them to a regular supply. Frequenting farmers markets accomplishes the same thing, of course, but the beauty of a CSA is that it keeps you on course. You’ve made a commitment up front, one you’re likely to keep.

It’s easy to waver going to the gym; you’re not losing anything tangible, just progress toward better health. It’s harder to justify ignoring food bought in advance.

My family has long enjoyed tasty CSA produce, first with Tait Farm’s Community Harvest CSA in Harris Township. After a hiatus of a few years, we now collect a share year-round from Healthy Harvest Farms in Marion Township.

Back when we started, few CSA choices existed locally. Today presents a different story. With many possibilities, how do you pick the right CSA? For advice, I turned to a local couple, Healthy Harvest Farms owners and vegetable aficionados Sara Eckert and Dave Sandy.

Eckert recommends first checking out and learning about the various CSA farms in the region. Each listing includes information about shares, costs and farming practices.

“It’s sort of the newfangled Yellow Pages of local food for the Internet,” Eckert said.

While researching farms, consider which suits your lifestyle. Does the farm deliver to a central pick-up location or would you have to travel to it, possibly a greater time investment? If customers pick up shares at the farm, is it far away? You might be less willing to go some weeks. On the other hand, seeing the farm up close just might be important enough to you to make the trip.

Then there are the shares themselves. How much do you get? How much do you want? CSA farms typically have different sizes; sometimes ones designated for families or individuals. Some offer shares biweekly rather than weekly. It all depends on your household’s appetite for veggies — or willingness to develop one.

Another consideration: Are shares predetermined or can you choose your selections?

“Maybe you’ll eat more vegetables if you can pick them,” Eckert said.

After you’ve narrowed down your candidates, take the time if possible to talk with farmers before a final decision. Chances are, you’ll gain a better sense of their personalities and agricultural approaches. That’s important because you’re not just signing up for an alternative to supermarket produce shipped from afar. You’re joining a community that can help you keep your resolution.

To inspire their customers, many CSAs like Healthy Harvest Farms provide delicious recipes and suggestions for preparing vegetables. Other customers may have ideas as well to share.

“It creates an environment where you feel supported to eat better, which is what we try to do as best we can for people other than coming over to their houses and cooking for them,” Sandy said.

If it all works out, you even might be able to let go of your resolution, guilt-free. Picking up your shares could become a get-to, as children say, not a have-to.

“I think a lot of people, when they get fresh vegetables and learn to cook them properly, they like to eat them,” Eckert said. “Vegetables aren’t a punishment.”

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