I have subscribed to a local farm for several years. This subscription is an agreement between me and a local farm. It’s called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Each week the growers at a local organic farm (Full Belly Farm) pack a box with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables grown on their farm and deliver it to a pick-up spot near my home. I walk down the street, pick up my box and viola! — I feel like I’m opening a gift every week. This is a great help to my family’s health. But it’s more than that. It’s a win-win. Here’s how:
Win number 1: My family and I get seasonal organic produce at the peak of freshness. One of the easiest ways to eat well is to eat seasonally. This means apples in Fall, citrus in Winter, asparagus in Spring and tomatoes in Summer. Seasonal eating means different things in different climates. I’m spoiled to live in California with it’s extra long strawberry and lettuce seasons. My relatives in Illinois get phenomenal sweet corn every summer, and the lucky folks in New Mexico have access to the best chilies. Eating what a local farm grows ensures you’ll have the nutrition, variety, and freshness that only seasonality brings to your table. Seasonality also keeps my palette fresh — it’s boring to eat the same produce all year.
Win number 2: I have a direct relationship with my food producer. In our increasingly global marketplace, it’s refreshing to know exactly how, where, and when my veggies were grown. There are no layers between the organic farm and my plate. I’ve visited the farm where my veggies are grown, and laid eyes on the workers who plant and harvest them. When I subscribe to the CSA program, the farmer is assured a consistent market for what he grows. It’s a mutual agreement of trust: I agree to pay him on a regular basis (and it’s a very reasonable payment) and he agrees to grow the best organic produce possible.
Is it weird to just accept what the farmer grows? I say no. In my experience, the farmer is very careful to grow produce that will appeal to a wide consumer base. The farmer who grows my produce often solicits and implements feedback from his subscribers. What if the farmer puts things in the box that I don’t know how to cook? I say that’s a positive. What I lack in choice I gain in great taste, variety and novelty. It’s actually freeing to accept the bounty and creativity of the farmer. My cooking has improved as I’ve incorporated a few new vegetables in to my repertoire. Plus, I’ve been able to sample awesome produce that I haven’t seen sold in grocery stores. How cool is that?
There are CSA programs all over the US, with options to suit just about every family. In northern states, these programs tend to be summer-focused because of shorter growing seasons. Here in California they are year-round. I encourage you to check out your options, enroll in a CSA program, and help our independent farmers to grow fabulous food in a sustainable manner by offering them a fair, consistent market for what they produce. This will help your health, support sustainable agriculture, and help ensure the future of good, organic food. It’s a win-win.
To see where you can enroll in a CSA program, check out localharvest.org.