Amy McDowell is a contributing writer for State-by-State Gardening.

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Six Reasons to Join a CSA
by Amy McDowell       #Edibles


Most Community Supported Agriculture operations, called CSAs, are organic or nearly organic. Here, growers at Wabi Sabi Farm are planting garlic.

The air is abuzz with springtime chatter. And there’s more to the chatter than birds returning from their southern winter vacations. I hear talk all around me about who is joining which CSA this year and what new CSA opportunities are opening up in our community.

CSAs, short for community supported agriculture, are buy-in programs with local farms. For an annual fee, CSA members share in the harvest, bringing home boxes of produce weekly (or bi-weekly) throughout the growing season. Visit www.localharvest.org to find the CSAs near you. Why should you join a CSA? Let me detail six great reasons.

1. Welcome fresher produce into your life. The vegetables you get from a CSA are often harvested the day you receive them. Studies have proven that fresh produce is much more nutritious than produce found in grocery stores. The fresher it is when you eat it, the more healthful it is for your body. Even if you don’t eat it quickly, you’ll notice its uber-freshness means it lasts a long time (a really long time) on your countertop or in your refrigerator before it starts to go bad.

2. Shopping locally supports your local economy and farmers near you. You can cut out the middleman. Like farmers’ markets, with a CSA, you are buying directly from the farmer who grows your food. The relationship puts you in touch with the kind of growing season the farmer is experiencing and the joys and challenges of food production. It’s a fantastic way to build a healthy relationship with your food right from its origins.

3. Buying produce through a CSA is better for the environment because your produce doesn’t burn fossil fuels traveling across the country (or around the world) to get to you. Isn’t it fascinating to think about the carbon footprint of the food you consume?

4. Expand your repertoire. You’ll likely find a few unfamiliar vegetables in your CSA box. Not only will you and your family eat more vegetables, you’ll also likely discover new ones and recipes you love along the way. Sometimes you’ll go to a farm to pick up the produce and sometimes a CSA brings it to a central location, where subscribers go to pick it up.

5. SAs couldn’t be easier. Pay one registration fee at the beginning of the season and you get to bring home fresh local produce all season. Joining a CSA is a great way to avoid the labor of maintaining your own garden. It will free up your time for eating, cooking and preserving the harvest. Not to mention summertime vacation, leisure and pursuing all of those other hobbies you love. You can devote your garden space to growing your favorite things that the CSA doesn’t offer and just dabbling in gardening for the sheer joy of it. CSAs also provide fresh produce for apartment or condo dwellers and those with small yards or without a sunny spot for a vegetable garden.

6. Say goodbye to pesticides and chemicals on your food. Although not all CSAs are certified organic (because the paperwork for certification is arduous,) almost all of them are chemical free and avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It just makes sense environmentally. The diversity of crops on CSA farms means they have an advantage when it comes to attracting beneficial insects and insect predators, and avoiding pests and pesticides.

Harvest season is a joyous time for both the growers and the members.
As an added benefit, some CSAs host workshops or potlucks for members. It's a great opportunity to share recipes for the produce everyone receives.

 

Photos courtesy of Ben Saunders, Wabi Sabi Farm, Granger, Iowa

 

Posted: 04/23/14   RSS | Print

 

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