By Amelia Winslow
Local food is good for you, your community, farmers, and the environment. When you eat locally grown produce, you’re not only enjoying a superior taste and nutritional value, but also showing your support for the local economy and reducing the environmental costs associated with transporting food.
Participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a wonderful way to support and enjoy local food. When you purchase a “share” – like a membership – at a local farm, you receive a box of fruits and vegetables every week during the farming season. This gives you the opportunity to:
Know where your food comes from. There’s no better way to get familiar with where your food comes from than to join a CSA. This is truly “farm to table” style eating, as you have the opportunity to meet your farmer, see the land where your food is grown, and participate in farm events throughout the season. If you have questions about your food or farming practices, you can ask the farmer himself!
Experience better taste. While grocery store produce is harvested to withstand transportation conditions and have a long shelf-life, CSA produce is harvested and delivered when it’s perfectly ripe and ready to eat. You will thus experience fruits and vegetables that taste more glorious than any produce you’ve previously eaten. What used to be a chore to eat may now be your greatest pleasure!
Support local farmers. In our modern industrialized food system, farmers make very little money despite long days of hard work. Most farmers have to take on second and third jobs just to make ends meet. By participating in a CSA, you give farmers in your area a better chance of making a living off of farming and help to create a meaningful connection between farmers and the people who eat the food they grow.
Protect the environment. Most of the food we eat travels long distances before it appears on our plate. This food transport system negatively affects human health and local economies as well as our environment, since more energy is expended on packaging, transportation, and distribution. When you become a member of a CSA, you cut out the “middle men” between you and your food and significantly reduce your environmental footprint. With a CSA, your produce is picked at peak ripeness and often delivered to you on the very same day.
Eat a wide variety of foods. If you’re like most people, you head to the store and buy roughly the same foods every week. A CSA gently nudges you out of your food comfort zone, since you’re given whatever is in season and ripe on the farm. Goodbye to boring lettuce & tomato salads; hello to sautéed kale with garlic and homemade potato leek soup! (Don’t worry if you have limited cooking skills – most farms slip easy meal and recipe ideas right into your box.)
Every CSA program is slightly different in how it works, what it offers, and what it costs. Most farms want to accommodate varying family appetites, taste preferences, and budgets, so there is sure to be a program in your area that meets your needs.
Harvest season has begun (or is beginning soon) in most regions of the country, so find a CSA near you today!