Note about the image above: This is an actual carrot that I got from my CSA – Living Hope Farm!
This Friday, 2/26/16, is National CSA Day. At Simple Seasonal, Dan and I are super excited because the inspiration for this website came first from falling in love with our local CSA farm. Being a part of a CSA has revolutionized our dinner table where we now serve fresh, delicious, nourishing, and seasonal meals.
What is a CSA?
If you’re unfamiliar with what a CSA is, it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” The function of a CSA stays true to its name. It’s a farm in which individuals purchase a “crop share” during the winter and early spring, before the season begins. Then, throughout the growing season, share members either come to the farm weekly to pick up their already-paid-for shares of just-harvested vegetables, or they pick up their shares at a pre-determined location. Shareholders financially support the farmer in advance to grow fresh vegetables for them in the upcoming growing season.
The content of each week’s share truly follows the seasons, as everything is grown from seed to seedling, tended and then harvested on the premises. Most CSA farms either carry the “naturally grown” or “organic” label, which are fairly similar in their implication – no pesticides or chemical fertilizers, plus sustainable farming practices. In other words, vegetables you can really feel good about eating. Above is an example of my recent crop share from last week (February). Yes! Many farms continue to grow through the winter under the shelter of greenhouses. As you can see, we are abounding in winter leafy greens and root vegetables, but before I know it we’ll be carting home sugar snap peas and quarts of strawberries. Below is a photo of my little one from a couple of years ago. To this day he is always sneaking fresh cherry tomatoes, carrots, green beans and berries from my weekly bag of goodies.
For the remainder of this post I’m going to list some of the benefits I’ve discovered over the last few years related to buying a crop share from a CSA farm. So, without further ado, here are 21 reasons you should join a CSA!
Benefits of CSA farms for the farmer:
- The opportunity to get to know the people they grow for. Good ol’ job satisfaction.
- Better cash flow for farms as they plan for a new season. Early payments from shareholders means enough money to buy seeds, farm supplies, and plan for labor expenses at the start of the season.
- When farmers can identify their market before the beginning of the season, they can plan the use of their resources more efficiently, which means less waste of money and of crop.
- A better market for growing a greater variety of produce, including heirloom varieties. (Note in the picture below the farmer holding cylindra beets – an heirloom variety. You won’t find those in most grocery stores!)
- Instead of spending time marketing already-grown vegetables during the warmer months, farmers can spend that time in the winter – marketing the vegetables they plan to grow. This means more time for them to focus on what’s important during the growing season; growing you stellar produce.
- Eliminating the middle-man in the packaging, transportation, and selling of produce. This means more profit ends up in the growers pocket, which they can then reinvest in their business.
Benefits of CSA farming for the environment and future generations:
- Less CO2 emissions from the energy required to transport and refrigerate produce across long distances.
- No groundwater pollution from pesticides and fertilizers, which ensures better drinking water for us and future generations.
- No damage to the fish population from pollution caused by the runoff of fertilizers that feeds oxygen-depleting organisms and throws off the balance of our fisheries, lakes, ponds, and streams.
- Management of healthy nutrient cycling of the soil by maintaining the balance of things like nitrogen, phosphorous, and methane. This means the soil remains productive for this generation and those to follow.
- The humane treatment of animals.
- Elimination of the “hidden cost” of pesticide and fertilizer production on the community. This is an almost 10 billion dollar industry!
- Taking that Big Ag industry from large corporations and putting those dollars, instead, into the local economy and local pockets.
My little one helping me with you-pick cherry tomatoes. (Which means picking tomatoes and stuffing as many as possible into your cheeks before Mommy scolds you!)
CSA Benefits for You and Me:
- Strawberry picking. Nuff said. Seriously though, eating strawberries out of a chemical-free strawberry patch on a sunny May afternoon is a little glimpse of heaven…
- Pesticide and chemical-free produce at a lower cost than the grocery store. I calculated a few years ago that being part of a CSA saved my family roughly $500 that year compared to if I had been buying the same organic produce at the store! That was enough to sell me, and literally made chemical-free produce affordable for my family.
- Feeding myself and my family chemical-free produce. The pesticides and fertilizers used in conventional farming have been shown to be carcinogenic (cancer causing), and endocrine disruptors (aka your hormones). On a greater scale, this translates into increased mortality and morbidity within the community and the resulting medical expense and loss of labor.
- The privilege of eating vibrant, just-harvested produce. If you’re a part of a CSA, say goodbye to wilted greens and tasteless tomatoes. Your produce will be harvested when it’s ripe and, in most cases, find its way into your kitchen within a day of being picked. This means better flavor and more nutrient-rich produce.
- Access to heirlooms and more unusual produce varieties, and the fun that comes with trying new things!
- The ability to get to know your farmers and develop a relationship of trust with those that nourish your family.
- Creating for yourself and the next generation a relationship with the earth, outside of structured parks and playgrounds, is good for cognitive development and happiness.
- Creating for yourself and the next generation an understanding of what real food is and the value of its production, which means better nutrition choices and health throughout your family’s life.
You-pick strawberries. It’s best to eat with both hands when it comes to field-fresh berries.
One happy free-range turkey and one happy kid.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to join a local CSA this year. How about you? Are there any benefits you’d like to add? If so (or if you just LOVE your CSA), I want to hear about you experience in the comments below! I hope you will, along with me, look forward to the health of yourself, your family, your community, and the next generation as you consider supporting local farms in the upcoming growing season!
For this post I sourced “Eating Local- healthy farms, healthy communities, healthy you (March 2003),” by Cornell students Heather Irvine, Elizabeth Karabinakis and Kimberly Portmess. Click the link to read the paper.