CSA as Spiritual Discipline

Nicole Janelle

I understand participation in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as a spiritual practice or discipline. While the word discipline may want to make us run and hide, a spiritual practice or discipline is meant to help us find our center.

Approaching my participation in the CSA as a spiritual practice transforms my anxiety around limited time (“When will I find the time to prepare all of this produce?”), cooking (“What will I make?”), waste (“I don’t want anything to go bad!”) and eating (“Will it taste good? Will my toddler actually eat this food?”). In this spiritual practice, the CSA box creates a space for contemplation, appreciation and wonder.

For our family, the CSA box prep time is the hour that my partner sets aside every week to clean, wash and store our vegetables. He enjoys listening to a podcast while he goes about the work. As a part of the mindful process, he minimizes water use by “catching” rinse water in a large bucket, and using it to water our thirsty trees. I overlap with him in the kitchen, taking some of the freshly washed produce (like the ever-abundant winter greens) to create our first CSA meal of week (often an egg dish with sautéed greens, egg, tempeh, tofu or beans, or a vegetable soup with lots of lemon and chili for added zing).

Throughout the week, the vegetables call me back, keeping me accountable to my spiritual discipline. There are several more rounds of chopping, sautéing, roasting, spicing, and baking. These cooking moments are an invitation to reflect on my life and the life of the community of which I am part. I try to be present to the meditative rhythm of prepping, creating, cooking, cooling and washing dishes. This is my time to reflect on my life, work, and relationships.

The spiritual practice of the CSA does not stop at the kitchen sink, cutting board or stovetop. It follows us to the table, where we have the opportunity to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest and the many hands that have helped to prepare the beautiful meal before us.

One of my greatest rewards as a CSA member is watching my toddler delight in eating her greens. She doesn’t welcome them with gusto every day, but she digs into them often enough. In my mind, spiritual disciplines are not meant to be entered into with the expectation of receiving a reward at the end of the process. But fortunately for me, this particular spiritual discipline offers me an abundance of rewards: it’s fun; it connects me to the earth and to a community that cares about the health of the land and people; it provides a space for contemplation and creativity; it supports the local economy; it’s water efficient; and, it provides delicious, nutritious food that my family and I have the privilege of eating every day of the week.