Recently I was approached by Louise Baker offering to research and write a guest post on any topic I requested. After reading her articles at the Zen College Life blog (check out 99 Cheap and Easy Ways to Stay Healthy in College), I was impressed and asked her to write about community supported agriculture (csa).
Louise does a terrific job of explaining the benefits of supporting local farmers. You’ve heard me mention my csa purchases in several blog posts. The cost is $25 per week for a family of two. I receive a huge box of whatever produce is in season at the time. It’s like Christmas every Thursday when Mike walks in the door with our box and wonderful aromas waft up. Fresh tomatoes, colorful sweet carrots, earthy potatoes. I’m forced to be adventurous and try things like kohlrabi and chard. What better opportunity for a cook like me. Healthy, nutritious and delicious.
So that’s enough of my babbling. If I haven’t convinced you to give it a try. Let’s see if Louise can . . .
Nutritional Benefits of CSA
Community supported agriculture has been around since the 1980’s. It is a concept in which a group of people pledge their support to a farm or a group of farmers. The farmers, thereby, become the community’s farm. By making a financial pledge, the people become shareholders, or members. The pledges cover the farmer’s salary and the costs of the farming operation. The community, in return, receives appropriate shares of the bounty within the growing season. Farmers and community members share in the risks associated with farming such as inclement weather and insects resulting in a poor harvest.
When produce is picked commercially it is done so much sooner than it should be. This is because the produce has to have time to be picked, washed, checked, packed in containers, driven to different destinations and distributed to many stores. Only by picking the produce at an earlier date are the farmers able to keep the produce from rotting. Unfortunately, because it is picked too soon, the produce does not have time to ripen, thus, it does not reach its peak in taste nor in nutritional value. Another disadvantage with commercially picked produce is that the customer does not know anything about the history of the produce. Things such as where it was grown, what kinds of pesticides were used, whether there were farm animals being raised nearby (it might have contaminants from this) and what kinds of conditions the produce went through (was it transported in a clean truck?). You take what you get when it comes to store produce.
The nutritional benefits of community agriculture includes fresher produce, better-tasting produce and higher nutritional content. Community supported agriculture is picked at the peak of freshness and nutritional content. In fact, it is picked every day during the growing season because each vegetable or fruit needs to be picked at just the right moment. The produce is then weighed, divided and distributed to members within a day or two which results in fresh produce, great taste and high nutritional content. Members not only know the farmers, they are able to visit the farm, help out, ask questions, relate concerns, pick out their own produce and drive it home themselves. If they are not happy then members can exchange the produce. This enables members to choose only the freshest looking produce which results in the freshest possible meals.
Community supported agriculture benefits everyone; customers receive the best of the best in vegetables and fruits and farmers know that their produce will always have a customer. It is like having a backyard garden without the back-breaking work.
If you are interested in finding a csa in your area, check out Local Harvest.