Shopping for vegetables

2 kilos of carrots and a sack of potatoes

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Jackie and Seth's patience has paid off and they are now proud members of their local CSA. Four baskets of local produce later, Jackie gives us the lowdown.

Starting in January, we became members of the Jardins D’Ouchy CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). By now, we have gone to four pickups of our large basket of vegetables, full of local winter goodies, each of which is essentially about three bags full of root vegetables.

Fortunately, with the exception of celeriac, which has the unpleasant taste of celery, we like winter vegetables. But we can’t wait until spring and summer veggies, particularly the strawberries, which is a specialty of the farm which supplies the fruit (for now, we’re talking apples, jam, and this week, locally grown kiwis!).

I wish we had thought to join a CSA (or, as they are known around here, une association pour le maintien d’une agriculture paysanne, AMAP) earlier. They first began in Switzerland, and they are still very popular here. We thought to join one last summer, but had to hang out on waiting lists until January. If you are living in Lausanne and looking to join a CSA/AMAP, look at Jardins du Flon and Jardin Potager as well, but I know ours is currently looking to expand and is accepting applications to join in May.

Vegetables from Clagett Farm CSA

We get a basket twice a month in winter, once a week or so in summer, and we get what is in season right here. And when I say right here, I mean RIGHT HERE. Now, almost all of the food we eat comes from fewer than four miles away. !!!!

What we like about our CSA:

  • Local. So local. So fresh. We do not have to go to the market or store and try to figure out what is in season and where the food was grown; that work is already accomplished for us!
  • Every week, when we go to pick up our vegetables, there is at least one of the Jardins d’Ouchy farmers around. We can ask them questions and talk to them. We are getting to know who grows our food! At some point, they will organise an open house at the vegetable farm, and I think we can go volunteer there in general should we so desire.
  • The pickup ritual. We bring our own reusable bags and we measure out our own veggies. We are told how many grams of each kind of vegetable we are to take, and it is up to us to weigh them as precisely as we possibly can. I am slowly developing a better sense for how many endives make a kilo, for example. This is useful, but probably not for the people who have to wait behind me in line as I slowly attempt to hone in on the right weight. Also, I like that everyone in the Jardins D’Ouchy community trusts one another enough to let each person weigh his/her own vegetables carefully and not cheat.
Punnets of apples
  • While we had to shell out a lot of money up front (although paying in installments is possible), based on our calculations, the money we spend on vegetables should come out about the same as when we were going to the market every week. And in reducing the middle-man costs and providing farmers with money and customers up front, the farmers can plan a more stable and equitable life.
  • The challenge. While we are unlikely to discover many new vegetables at this point, as we already bought and cooked every unfamiliar we could find in Switzerland last year, which is generally a selling point for CSAs, we will get more carrots, more beets and more celery root than we’d ever imagined. Cooking to fit the season, which we have already been doing, has just been made more challenging, because we now cook in proportion to the available quantities of the vegetables that are in season. We have little choice in the vegetables we receive, and we are determined not to waste, so we’ve been eating some things that we’d not otherwise have made, or at least not so often. If we’re really desperate, we can usually find a couple of people willing to take vegetables off our hands. And we can always supplement our given vegetables with a few extras from the market.
  •  We can also buy fresh eggs straight from the chicken and raw milk straight from the cow. We haven’t gotten milk, but the eggs are really nice. No more worrying about making sense of the labels on the egg cartons in the store! And the dairy farmer can be paid a fair wage for his cows’ milk.
  •  We are now part of a little community. It would not be crazy that this type of community could, say, result in friends at some point.
Fresh eggs

CSAs are not just a Swiss thing anymore. We are hoping to join one back in the USA at some point too! Or even help to organise one, should none exist. There are a lot of resources out there on the internet, and even the American Jewish community seems to be jumping on the CSA and local, sustainable food movement bandwagon. Look up Local Harvest, Hazon, and the Just Table, Green Table URJ initiative for just some examples.

Jackie and Seth are spending a couple years in Switzerland, living just outside of Lausanne in Renens VD. They arrived in August 2008. Jackie is getting a master’s degree in international studies at IHEID in Geneva, while Seth is working towards a PhD in Computer Science at EPFL in Lausanne. Follow them on

Photo credits: Vegetables from Clagett Farm CSA by (

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