Susan Porter-Pintz wants her children to know that food originates on a farm - not at a grocery store.

Susan Porter-Pintz wants her children to know that food originates on a farm - not at a grocery store.

That's why the Dublin mother buys a share in a "community supported agriculture" program every summer.

In joining a CSA, she pays a farmer at the start of a growing season for a portion of his or her yield that she and her children collect each week at the local farmer's market. The experience has helped Elliott, 10, and Lillian, 12, understand the farmer's role in food production.

"I do like that they are really connecting the dots between who's growing our food and how we can support local farmers," she said.

CSAs are a great way to expose kids to new, healthy food options, said Adam Fazio, director of operations for Local Matters, an organization dedicated to helping increase access to healthy food. The key is finding a CSA that suits your family's needs so you can maximize the benefits of it, he said. Central Ohio has a variety of CSAs to choose from, so families can have a say in the frequency and amount of food that's delivered, said Fazio, who has been a CSA customer for about 10 years.

He recommends doing a quick assessment of the produce when you bring it home to determine what items need to be eaten in the first few days, what can stay in the crisper for a week or so and what could last several weeks or months. Most of the fruits and vegetables provided in a CSA will have longer shelf life than those you purchase at the grocery because they are usually just harvested.

"It makes eating seasonally really convenient," Fazio said.

If you are unsure how long an item will keep, ask the growers.

"Ask as many questions as you need to ask," said Jaime Moore, co-owner of Wayward Seed Farm, which farms land in Madison and Union counties, and a founding member of the Great River Organics farmers' cooperative. "We want you to be successful when you get home."

Wayward Seed produces a newsletter that offers tips on storing, preparing and freezing produce, she said.

Most farmers are eager to share information about their crops, added Tim Cook, who owns New Century CSA in Circleville. His advice ranges from the playful, "Just eat more," to sharing his family's recipes and referring people to the Ohio State University Extension Office for tips on freezing foods.

The Whole Foods Market in northwest Columbus provides information online and in its weekly Ohio Farmer's Pick, a pre-ordered bag of fruits and vegetables assembled by the produce staff, said Deb Thompson, marketing team leader. The store also plans to offer a cooking class this summer for people who participate in traditional CSAs.

"We have a whole team of experts that are always available to answer questions," she said.

If you are not sure how to prepare something, try tasting it raw to see if the flavors remind you of something you regularly cook, Fazio suggested. If it does, try preparing it similarly, he said. He also recommends making and freezing soup when you receive an abundance of vegetables.Many of the items taste delicious steamed or sautéed, said Heidi Ball, a Marysville mother of two and a longtime CSA member. You don't have to be a chef to make the foods but you do have to be prepared to cook often, she said.

"We eat most of our meals at home," she said. "I make anything and everything. I have to use what I get from the farmer because I don't want it to go to waste."

CSAs are not for everyone, agreed Porter-Pintz. Families that eat out often or travel a lot in the summer may not want to invest in one, she said.

"I'm cooking on a regular basis," she said. "Especially in the peak of the season - there is an incredible amount of stuff to prepare."

Ball and Porter-Pintz have found their children are more eager to try new foods because they enjoy interacting with the farmer.

"It's definitely working. They like a variety of things," Porter-Pintz said. "Do they like every vegetable? No. But most adults don't like every vegetable either."

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Sampling of Ohio CSA's

The following is a sampling of Central Ohio CSAs. The deadlines for registration vary. Many have a set number of shares that they sell on a first come, first serve basis. Some will allow you to join mid-season if they still have availability. The farms grow a variety of produce, some offer additional fruit options.

Athens Hills CSA, Amesville, certified organic, 740-448-4021. Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus. Cost: $560 for a weekly share or $320 a bi-weekly share. Duration: 20 weeks. Fruit add-on, $100 or $200.

Bird Havens Farm, Granville, 740-587-1100, . Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus and Licking County. Cost: $365 for a small share or $565 for a large share. Duration: 21 weeks. Option Two: $215 for a small share or $355 for a large share. Duration: 11 weeks.

Blossom Acres CSA, Coshocton, 330-674-1446, on Facebook: Blossom Acres CSA. Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus. Cost: $550 per share. Duration: 21 weeks.

Great River Organics, farmer-owned cooperative of eight certified organic farms, marketbag@greatriverorganics.org, 614-929-5525. Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus. Cost: $27 per week or $28 for a bi-weekly share. Duration: 20 or 30 weeks. Fruit add-on that lasts 20 weeks, $300.

New Century CSA, Circleville, 740-207-1073. Delivers to your home. Cost: $396.75 for a small share or $689.25 for a large. Duration:15 weeks.

Paige's Produce, Stoutsville. Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus. Cost: $578 for a full share or $327.80 for a half share. Duration: 20 weeks.

Peace Love and Freedom Farm, Clintonville, 614-390-3859. Delivers to Clintonville only. Cost: $32 a week for a full share or $16 a week for half share. Duration: 22 weeks.

Sippel Family Farm, Mt. Gilead, certified organic farm, 614-563-1139. Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus. Cost: $700. Duration: Mid-May to mid-November.

Wayward Seed, Marysville, certified organic, 614-327-0102. Pick-ups at several locations throughout Columbus. Cost: $26 a week or $34 a week with a fruit supplement. Duration: 25 weeks. Wayward Seed also offers bi-weekly options.