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In the fall of 2010, my roommates and I signed up for our first CSA membership, a program where you can, in a sense, buy-in with local farmers. You pay a flat subscription fee for the season, and in exchange, you get a box of produce from local farms. The goodies vary from week to week, season to season.

I was, at that time, looking for a way to write. After finishing my MFA earlier that year, I had taken a job as an administrative assistant at a law firm, where I worked 40 hours a week. I came home around 5:30pm, ate some food, stared at the television, and then slept. Same thing, every day. I no longer wrote aside from the odd book review here and there. I couldn’t break into my fiction; my defense had frozen me up, as it does to so many, and I needed time.

Apple pie (CSAcation style)

What am I saying? I needed an escape. I was thrashing about in the ocean, grasping for any semblance of my artistic life that I could cling to. I seriously considered getting my Ph.D., a plan that had plenty of good intentions, but ultimately served as more of an escape hatch than a true interest in pursuing a doctoral degree. And during all this thrashing about, I got my first box of CSA produce. And I had an idea and a very willing editor.

I asked my friend Jesse, the editor-in-chief of AltDaily, if I could write a series of articles about the CSA. We all got this same box of produce, I said, and others may find themselves in the same position I do:  wondering how in the world to cook a beet.

A big CSAcationy dinner. | Pic by Andrea Nolan

Jesse said yes, named the series My CSAcation, and I kept that journey through local food up for almost a year. In that time, I wrote regularly, every week, even if it was just a short factual run-down about the ingredients and a recipe I had tried. But as I wrote, I found I got more comfortable. I made the CSAcation about more than just learning how to cook purple sweet potatoes; it became a way for me to regain my voice. At one point, an agent from New York even queried me for a book manuscript (which I don’t have – yet), and she found me through AltDaily. That series of articles about local produce made a lot of really great things happen for me.

After switching jobs a few times, taking on more responsibility at AltDaily (and then subsequently leaving my post there as Food Editor), and making a lot of significant life changes, I couldn’t do the CSAcation anymore. We let our subscription lapse, and the column fell away. But the good work was already in place:  I had found a way to discover the world around me through food and writing.

Blueberry buckle with (yep) local blueberries

Starting today, I’ll have a CSA subscription again through Five Points Farm Market. And once again, I’ll be blogging my way through the boxes of food I receive, picking and choosing ingredients and writing up the ways I prepare them. I’m excited to delve back into this kind of writing again after several months away from it, this time approaching it with confidence and purpose and inspiration that comes from knowing my voice, believing in my abilities, and trusting myself.

A Few of My Favorite AltDaily CSAcation Articles

CSAcation:  Dana vs. May Peas and Her Empty Apartment

CSAcation:  Dana vs. Butter Beans

CSAcation:  Dana vs. Zucchini, Cheese, and Dance