NO FARMER’S MARKET NEAR YOU? EAT LIKE A FARMER BY JOINING A CSA PROGRAM!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are one of the best ways to get vegetables and other produce straight from local sources.
Whether you’re consciously trying to remove some of the steps it takes for your organic food to get to your plate, or just want all the convenience that a basket of fresh, seasonal veggies gives you, CSA programs are a great way to eat like you live on the farm. And since there are so many CSA groups popping up these days, chances are there’s one near you. If you’re not sure, you can search this database of CSA farms from LocalHarvest to check.
To the uninitiated, CSA programs work like this: A (hopefully organic) farmer decides they’d like to sell some of their produce directly to the public. For a weekly or monthly fee you buy “shares” of the farmer’s produce, usually in the form of a basket of vegetables/fruits.
Most farms let you pick up the produce from them directly every week, but some ship the harvest to your door or a specific collection point. Certain CSA programs will even let you pick the food that goes into your basket yourself while others decide for you, but whatever you get usually depends on the produce that’s currently in season. For this reason, most CSA programs operate during the summer, but it varies by region, farm and season.
Here in the midwest, there are a lot of farms with CSA programs. But we didn’t like the idea of driving to one every week and using up the time and gas. We also didn’t want the produce shipped to our house because of all the fuel that uses, especially when you factor in the other homes getting shipments.
Instead, we were very excited to sign up for a weekly “Fresh For You” CSA-like program that ships pre-filled baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables to our favorite local organic market, Nourish, which is only a 5 minute’s stroll away. Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan– we are pretty lucky to have an awesome local food movement happening right around us.
There are plenty of farm stands, a couple of farmer’s markets, organic markets, and an awesome new downtown market with dozens of different local vendors. We’d definitely like to see even more organic farmers, but we’re happy with the progress GR is making and thankful for the opportunity to buy local & organic to support the people who work so hard to give us this opportunity.
We know these CSA programs aren’t something that’s possible for everyone to afford or participate in because of where they live, but it’s SO worth it if you can! We got our 2nd shipment of veggies and fruits this week, and this is what we got:
The 5 reasons YOU should join an organic CSA group are below. Small disclaimer: These programs are usually pretty affordable when you figure in the cost of driving to the store every week for your organic produce, and/or the long-term health costs of not eating organic.
5 Reasons YOU Should Join a CSA
1) It Supports Your Local Economy
Local farmers, and especially organic farmers, work their tails off. Many work under the threats of plant contamination and competition from conventionally grown vegetables. These “conventional” veggies are often grown from GMO seeds that tend to find ways to propogate in neighboring fields where they aren’t wanted.
By choosing their produce over the big-box grocery store’s, you support the organic farmer, the businesses that farmer chooses to support, and economic democracy as a whole. Besides keeping that dollar bill in your community, it just feels good to know you chose an organic vegetable from a farm in visiting distance from your house.
2) CSA Produce Is Simply Better
As long as the produce is organic, you’re pretty much guaranteed MUCH fresher and more delicious food with a greater concentration of nutrients. Would you rather have food that’s grown for shipping and lasting on the shelf, or food grown for nutrition and flavor?
This is why it doesn’t matter that CSA vegetables don’t last as long. Since many CSA programs provide you with shares weekly, whichever vegetables are at their peak ripeness are the vegetables that get picked and put into your basket. You were planning on cooking them within the week anyway, right?
3) Wider Variety
One of the major flaws of our food system is that we rely on single species of crops due to consumer demand (Think: russet potato. Why does it always have to be russet when there are so many varieties of potatoes?). This causes a range of problems from crop failure to reliance upon damaging fertilizers and pesticides.
The natural way to farm incorporates biodiversity, and that translates into varieties of crops you wouldn’t easily find at the grocery store. Not only that, but multi-crop farming, especially with field rotation, is the natural way for farmers to obtain higher yields. The soil simply holds more nutrients and doesn’t require as many chemicals and fertilizers. Diversity wins!
4) Less Environmental Damage
Go to the store and you’ll see bell peppers from Holland, blueberries from California, and lots of stuff from Mexico. Imagine all the carbon that goes into the air from shipping all these plants thousands of miles. The food is cheap, but the tax on our environment is not. By supporting your local farm you are decreasing you carbon footprint on the world which is more needed than ever–more sustainable food communities, less environmental impact.
The United States food system is responsible for around 10% of total U.S. energy consumption. But more surprising is that agricultural production accounts for 21% of this figure while transporting, processing, and packaging the food accounts for around 37% of food energy consumption. We know you can do math, but this means that more energy is used for getting the food to our plates than to produce it.
5) Support Organic Agriculture
The ideological statement you make by buying organic food may be the most important reason to join a CSA program. For one thing, you send the farmer, the people you feed the food to (including yourself!, and companies like Monsanto that grow crops in unsustainable and inorganic ways a message: You want organic food because food that isn’t organic is harmful to the body and the environment, and you support your local economy.
The best way to encourage the change that our food system needs is by consciously choosing foods grown in healthy and sustainable ways. If enough people actively support things such as community supported agriculture, home or public food gardens, and organic growing, consumer demand will ultimately be the most powerful driving force against unsustainable and toxic methods of farming.