Serious Cheese: How to Find Cheese CSAs Online
"It's an amazing show of anti-homogeneity and a great reminder of how disconnected we've become from the natural rhythms of the food system."
Most of us are by now familiar with the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, just in case) model: Pay a lump sum up front, receive packages of vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, flowers, etc. for a number of months. But the infinite permutations on these food-by-subscription plans have now arrived in a form that's close to my heart: cheese CSAs. A recent article at Foodworthy rounded up that site's knowledge of extant cheese CSAs, state by state, with an exhortation to readers to add their own.
Periodic shares are a great way of experiencing cheese. The taste, aroma, and even texture of cheese can change greatly as the animals move to different feeds or as the available plants in their grazing change with the seasons, making cheese a truly seasonal food.
By signing up to get portions of the same cheese (although hopefully there will be some rotation among your particular cheesemaker's products), you'll learn exactly how small changes—the shift from pasture to feed over the winter, for example—can dramatically affect the taste of the cheese (which is why the wheels of Comté made from the summer milkings are most prized).
It's an amazing show of anti-homogeneity and a great reminder of how disconnected we've become from the natural rhythms of the food system. Of course, CSAs are also great for the farmers: CSAs help subsidize their costs up front, removing some of the uncertainty and risk surrounding food production, and help foster a strong bond between producers and consumers.
If you're interested in finding your own cheese CSA, here are a couple of other great online resources that will help you get started. Unfortunately, these online sources take a little mining, but they have a lot of great noncheese-related information that you'll probably be glad to have learned. Or, of course, you can go to your local farmers' market, find the people with the cheese, and ask if they have a CSA, but talking to actual people is so old-fashioned. Here's how to do it from the comfort of your computer cave.
- LocalHarvest is the granddaddy of web-based local-food resources. They've got a number of helpful pages, including a listing of CSAs that is searchable by state or ZIP code. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have an option to search by type of product, but, once you drill down to the individual CSA's page (here, for example, is one of my local CSAs), they list the types of produce and other consumables that each offers
- EatWild is another directory of local farms, with a focus on farms that raise animals without cruelty, on pasture. Like LocalHarvest, they don't actually offer a way to search by product, but they do offer a page dedicated to grass-fed dairies. I can't say that their site is easy to use, but it offers really great information on small farms that otherwise have a hard time advertising
Do you know of any great sources for cheese CSA information? Know of a great cheese CSA in your area? Have an awesome farm that sends cheese by express FedEx? Please, share in the comments!
About the author: Jake Lahne is a graduate student in Food Science because he's too much of a wuss to actually work in restaurants anymore. He nevertheless is willing to offer his opinion on any number of food-related topics and specializes in cocktail culture at his own blog, Liquor Is Quicker.