Eating healthy through Community Supported Agriculture farm shares
As hard as it might be to imagine, spring is coming. No, really, it is! And now is the time to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture farm share.
In a recent article, the New York Times estimated that there are about 1500 CSAs in operation, and there is most likely one near you. This past year, my husband and I split a share in the World Peas CSA with a couple of our friends who live nearby, and we recently decided to renew for the 2009 growing season.
When you join a CSA, you are directly supporting the farmers who grow food in your community. This is important to me because it supports small farm businesses, provides green jobs and conserves land. I also appreciate that the food I am buying is in season and fresh, and requires a minimum of trucking and refrigeration to make its way to my kitchen. Some CSAs also have relationships with local food banks and provide shares, or surplus vegetables, to families in need. Ours helps provide job training to recent immigrants, who are encouraged to grow crops from their home countries.
Some families will save money by participating in a CSA; if you are the kind of shopper who likes to pay $3 more a pound to get the organic heirloom tomatoes, you will probably do well. A CSA share is estimated to cover the vegetable needs of a family of four for one week, but it’s important to realize that it all comes at once! To get the most out of your share, plan to prepare and store all your vegetables on pickup day. If you have the time to do this, you will most likely see a savings in your weekly food bill, and you’ll know that more of the dollars you spend are going to the farmers.
One aspect of the CSA program is that you get what they grow; that meant, last year, a huge bunch of garlic chives every single week, and very few tomatoes. This can be really fun- I discovered that I love amaranth and long beans- but only if you love to experiment with new and exotic vegetables. Our CSA was great about providing information and recipes in their weekly newsletter, but I confess that I threw some stuff away (sorry, turnips).
Here’s an example of what was in our box during the second week of August. This is one whole vegetable share, plus one whole fruit share, before we split it up.
Garlic chives, lettuce, chard, some other kind of greens, zucchini and summer squash, a funky looking melon, green peppers, a quart of blueberries, a quart of peaches and two pounds of apples.
There is also corn, radishes, cherry tomatoes and ground cherries, which are related to tomatillos, and which my husband thought tasted like pancakes.
With CSAs, like everything else related to diet and fitness, you get out of it what you put into it. My friend Jessica was more diligent with her half of our share than I was with mine- check out this girl’s freezer! She and her husband will be eating locally grown produce, frozen at the peak of ripeness, all winter long. I am inspired by her example and am already dreaming about what I’ll do with this year’s first pickup.
– by Julia