That bounty of produce can produce lots of work

Cleaning and sorting are parts of the process

Bob Blanchard sorts the vegetables from his CSA. Bob Blanchard sorts the vegetables from his CSA. (Lisa Poole for The Boston Globe)
By Michael Prager
Globe Correspondent / August 24, 2011

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The growing legions of consumers committed to getting their produce from local sources list lots of reasons for their choice: connection to the land and to the grower, a passion for freshness, a heightened interest in health, and more.

Few cite convenience.

Bob Blanchard of Manchester-by-the-Sea gets his greens and things in a Community Supported Agriculture share from Connors Farm in Danvers. When he carries his haul home in his one big bag each week, the sorting begins. Blueberries go into an aerated container. Lettuce goes into perforated plastic bags made for the purpose. Potatoes go into a paper bag for storage in the cellar.

“You have to put it so it’s going to be usable for the week, especially if you’re a person whose CSA share could effectively support four people and you’re only two,’’ says Blanchard, 66, who also freezes, preserves, and cans what he and his wife can’t eat, despite teaching almost a full load of business management classes at Salem State College.

Whether they’re getting produce from CSA or other avenues, locavores often have to include an investment of time if they’re to get the most from their produce: Lettuces and other greens are sandy, beets and potatoes need a good scrubbing before cooking, tomatoes are often in such abundance that you have to put them up or give some away.

Elisabeth Carr-Jones also has a routine when she brings her harvest home. But first she grows it. She’s co-chief gardening officer at the organic Robbins Farm Garden in Arlington, where about a dozen townspeople gather a couple times a week in a public park to collaboratively choose, plant, cultivate, and reap about 100 varieties of plants.

When Carr-Jones and her husband, Alan Jones, return from the garden, the first thing they do is fill the sink with cold water “to rehydrate and clean all the greens. While those are soaking, we start rinsing and sorting and bagging the other produce - beans, eggplants, peppers, all that stuff.’’

When that’s done, they clip, sort, and bag the greens for the refrigerator and put the onions and potatoes in a light-tight cabinet. “The tomatoes we leave in a bowl in the pantry. They’re so pretty,’’ says Carr-Jones, 54, a graphic designer.

The state’s 220-plus farmers’ markets are overflowing with local produce. That, not incidentally, is the locavorians’ low-labor option. Asked what her post-shopping process is like, Nyia Yannatos, 73, pauses for a moment and then replies: “I throw the food in the fridge,’’ though she does allow that for lettuces and other greens, there’s a bit more washing involved. “But that’s because they’ve just come out of the ground, which I love,’’ she adds. Yannatos, an artist and retired teacher who lives in Cambridge, gets most of her produce from markets in Union and Davis squares in Somerville.

For these consumers, it’s not only the prep work at home that’s extra. Besides going to the farmers’ market, or the farm, or the garden, there is another errand to run: to the supermarket to get dishwashing soap and paper towels. For Liz Fahey, 47, of Wellesley, her CSA pickup means an extra 15 minutes each way to Dover Farm in Dover. But she’s effusive when she says it’s no burden at all.

“Going to the CSA, I don’t have to think,’’ she says. In her case, she looks at a board to see what she should pack in her bag, then, “I take it and go. At the market, I have to take a list, figure out what’s cheaper, etc. Going to the market is cold, and going to the CSA, you’re outside. The grocery store feels like a chore, where going to the CSA is enjoyable,’’ says Fahey, who also grows her own tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, herbs, zucchini, strawberries, and pumpkins.

She goes so far as to say it’s “inspiring. I feel like I’m doing something good.’’ About seven years ago, she embarked on a healthier eating plan that included trying more vegetables and fruit. She’s now maintaining a 120-pound weight loss.

Not everyone has such a dramatic story, but enthusiasm is a locavore hallmark. Scott Soares, commissioner of the state Department of Agricultural Resources, says, people “are looking for a new experience and a new connection to the food they eat.’’

Soares isn’t only the commissioner, he’s also a consumer. “Every night, there’s something on our plates that came from a farmers’ market.’’

Michael Prager can be reached at