Be a Basketcase: Join Utility Research Garden's CSA Program

I love grocery shopping...if there's no one else in the store. Picking out produce can be particularly hectic if you're picky, like I am. Worse, it's often a huge let-down to find only chemical-laden, rock-hard tomatoes or ragged-looking beets with the stems and leaves shamelessly cut off.

That's where CSAs come in handy. A CSA is a Community Supported Agriculture program in which a group of people pre-pays a farmer at the beginning of the season, then gets deliveries of fresh, seasonal produce each week. You don't have to worry about picking the best vegetables; the farmer does that for you. And you never have to worry whether your produce is in season or saturated with chemicals.

David Cater of Utility Research Garden has his fall CSA program up and running: BasketCase. I first heard about it through Poison Girl owner Scott Repass, who summed it up perfectly:

"[Cater] is starting a program where you sign up and he will bring you a basket a week of veggies for 14 weeks," said Repass. "Every week, he's going to park a small trailer at Black Hole Coffee House for an evening and you can pick the veggies up there."

It's even easier than a farmer's market.

This BasketCase season started on October 19, but it's not too late to join. You'll likely be able to pay a pro-rated amount, and you'll be able to get a shipment of farm-fresh veggies from Cater each week for the next three-and-a-half months.

The cost is $30 a week, which works out to $4 a day or $420 for the entire season. You can split that $420 cost in two, as long as you pay the remainder by November 23. Pickup at Black Hole -- which is also owned by Repass -- will take place from 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings to 8:30 a.m. Thursday mornings, so you certainly have a wide window of time. Baskets of produce not picked up each week will be donated, but who wouldn't pick up their veggies?

If this sounds like a steal, that's because it is. And if a basket of produce is too much for you, consider splitting your share with a friend, neighbor or officemate.

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