With my post about the power of buying in numbers, I felt it relevant to revisit the topic of CSAs that I posted about last year. Read on to educate yourself on what the heck a CSA is…
We’ve posted before encouraging you to try out your local farmers’ market for some of the freshest produce you can get. If you enjoy having access to locally grown fruits and vegetables, your support will help the farmer thrive as well as potentially lower prices by making their trip to your city more profitable. (Transport costs and booth rentals add to the farmer’s overhead costs and impact the price you pay.) Perhaps you would like to contribute even more, but there’s no need to insult the farmer by offering charity. Instead, there are programs called CSAs (community supported agriculture). From RobbWolf.com:
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer in their community. It is basically a farm share. A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Local consumers buy a share into the farm – they support this year’s crop with money up front for a membership, and in exchange, each week during the growing season, they will receive a box of local, fresh, and seasonal produce directly from the farm.
Community & Economy. CSAs help the local farmers in several ways. Since CSA subscriptions are generally marketed in January/February, the farmers get to spend their time in the fields during the growing season, instead of trying to generate business or sitting at a farmers market. The payment early in the season also helps them fund the crops that year – from seeds to improvements to the soil to new equipment.
Local farmers are small business owners. Spending money with a local business instead of at a big box retailer or chain keeps more of those dollars in your own community. Supporting local businesses does really matter. It is a way of living mindfully, supporting sustainable businesses, voting with your dollars, being an active participant in your own life.
Seasonal & Environmental. If you’ve ever eaten a strawberry picked at the peak of its season, still warm from the early summer sun, then you know the wonderful, intoxicating deliciousness of seasonal produce. Contrast that: if you’ve ever been tempted to buy a strawberry from the grocery store in December, you remember what a bland, flavorless disappointment it was. There really is a difference when you eat produce in season.
What does eating seasonally mean? It means you buy foods that are being grown and harvested locally, right now. It does not mean buying “fresh” green beans in January when you live in New Jersey (those were shipped in from Mexico, probably) or eating “fresh” asparagus in August (asparagus is a very early Spring vegetable).
By buying seasonally, you guarantee that the food is local. You’re not harming the environment by shipping the food thousands of miles (with all the carbon footprint that entails). You also are guaranteeing that you get the freshest, most nutritious and tasty food available.
When I originally made this post, I had just signed up to try a local CSA. You can read my review here. Also, Scott and Michelle recently tried Farm Fresh to You, which is a CSA that delivers direct to your doorstep. Hopefully they can share their own review in the comments.