She’s Bought the Farm

August 18, 2008 at 3:04 am 6 comments

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  A means to support local economy, improve your diet, reconnect with the land… maybe even lift your spirits. 

About a week ago, I heard about this thing called “Community Supported Agriculture,” or CSA.  Now, not only am I considering becoming a member myself, I’m looking for ways to spread the word about this remarkable concept to everyone I know.  In this fast-paced world of junk-food convenience and internet isolation, Community Supported Agriculture is a means of directly connecting to the highest quality produce available, while simultaneously building community and increasing local awareness. 

As many of you know, I’ve become quite the organic food junkie over the last six months or so.  So much so, that I call it no real sacrifice to drive a half hour north to a large, bare-bones-style grocery store with a well-stocked organic section of both produce and dry goods, all of which they carry at significantly better prices than the organic giant, Whole Foods, or even the large chains like Jewel.  I recognize that there is some irony in my driving an hour round-trip to purchase food that hasn’t been flown in from Spain, but until now, it was the best option available to me.  Call me out of the loop, but I just found out about an amazing way to get fresh organic produce on a weekly basis – maybe even delivered to my door – for a significantly lower price than I’ve been paying, even at my favorite grocery store.  Oh, and when I say “fresh,” I mean really, really fresh.

While the concept originated in Asia roughly 30 years ago, its manifestation in North America was more heavily influenced by the biodynamic farming practices of Europe, and it’s just now exploding in the U.S. in light of rising fuel costs.  This phenomenon goes by the name Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.  CSA are small farms selling shares of their harvest to individuals, who, in return for their very reasonable upfront investment (usually around $500-$800), receive a weekly share of produce throughout the growing season, which typically runs from late spring till early fall.  Some CSA offer other products like meat, eggs, milk, cheese, honey… even fresh flowers!  The price of membership is designed to cover the farm’s yearly operating budget, including everything from seeds and fertilizer, to labor and equipment maintenance.  The “shares” received in return generally are enough for 2-4 people, although some farms offer options regarding share size.

There ARE a few details to be aware of, for those who are used to grocery store convenience and shelf life (which would be pretty much all of us).  First, part of the deal with CSA is that you are sharing the risks as well as the bounty.  If the season goes badly, or if the crops are wiped out by weather or pests, there may BE no harvest.  Second, it can take some adjusting to get used to natural produce, which is not always fluorescent-light-pristine – there may be spots, or dirt, and some specimens might be on the small side.  That’s the reality of nature, as opposed to the vast wastefulness that occurs in the supermarkets where “inferior” produce are simply thrown away.  In the very long list of potential perks to this process, here are a few of the biggies that really stand out for me: 

1.      CSA fosters a sense of community, in that all of the members of a CSA have a vested interest in the success and wellness of the farm, and by proxy, the other members.  You will begin to see some of your neighbors on a regular basis when picking up your shares (or volunteering at the farm), giving you the opportunity to build relationships with like-minded individuals.  In addition, money stays in the community, thereby improving the local economy.

2.      When one lives so near to the land where one’s food is being grown, maybe even making regular trips to the farm to pick up your shares, it can’t help but encourage stewardship of the earth, and the teaching of these habits to our children.

3.      For those of us living in a predictable rut of side salads, this is an excellent opportunity to explore new produce.  While it’s a common phenomenon for CSA newbies to sort through their bin with some trepidation at the new faces inside, variety is well known to be one of the keys to diet success.  Even if you’re not actively trying to lose weight, a wider assortment of fruit and veg can only increase the amount of vitamins and nutrients you’re receiving.

It’s a pretty incredible system really.  I’ve just begun checking into it in my area, and found there are eight within an hour of me!  Think there’s no way there could be one near you?  Think again – there are nearly 2000 across the U.S., and me checking a few random states returned the following numbers:  IL=70, WI=114, PA=113, NY=151, CA=136, FL=23, AZ=19, NC=64, HI=9, TX=48, WY=5, and UT=7!  So why have I never heard of this before?!  It turns out that they now need to do very little actual marketing, as word of mouth is spreading the news like wildfire.  Well, consider this my kindling contribution! 

For more information on CSA, or to find a farm in your area, check out localharvest.org.  They offer current news, a farm locator, and a wonderful blog of their travels around the country.  For our friends seeking CSA Down Under, check out Andrew the Organic Maven.

All my love, Kristy

Entry filed under: Food and Nutrition, Going Green. Tags: , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. PaintandSoul  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Waaaah, there isn’t one close enough to me!! 😦 I did discover a fantastic farmer’s market I didn’t even know about though. I also blogged about your blog. Very insightful and fantastic post as usual dear one.

    Reply
  • 2. averagegoddess  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    But yay for the farmer’s market! It’s a start!

    Reply
  • 3. Andrew the Organic Maven  |  August 21, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Love your post and understand your situation.
    Here in Australia, the CSA model is virtually unknown, (we can only find a handful of farmers marketing this way) so we are leading from the front establishing a CSA ourselves.
    Next time I post about CSA’a I’ll link back to your site if that’s ok.
    Cheers.

    Reply
  • 4. averagegoddess  |  August 21, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I understand that getting the business started can be a little hairy from the farmer’s end of things, and I wish you the best of luck in your undertaking! It’s a worthy endeavor though, and I really believe that as the public becomes more educated on the topic, the idea can’t help but take off. Let me know if there’s any way I can help, and I’ll take all the links I can get! 🙂

    Reply
  • 5. Cali  |  August 21, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    How did I not know about this? Lol,… don’t tell anyone that I’m just now discovering this!! They all think that I blaze the way and am certainly a little too “healthy” when it comes to my food – lol. They use “health nut” in a loving way,… at least I *think* so,… They could be snickering behind my back for all I know – ha,ha!! Anywho,… this is awesome! Now I just have to convince my DH that we should totally do this,… although he’s usually a big push-over when it comes to food, especially organic since I’m a little too obsessed with buying only organic foods (not just fruits and veggies but meats and dry goods as well – lol). Ok so maybe I AM a health nut *grin.*

    Reply
  • 6. averagegoddess  |  August 22, 2008 at 2:49 am

    I totally hear ya! Talk about a well-kept public secret! I’m really excited about the new experience. If you guys join too, we’ll have to compare notes!

    Reply

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