Why I Love My CSA
I joined a local CSA program two years ago and it was one of the best things I’ve done in our journey toward better health. For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are a popular way to buy local, seasonal (and most often organic) produce directly from a farmer in your area.
When you become a member of a CSA, you enter into a partnership with a local farm and agree to purchase a share of their harvest. Seasons vary depending on where you live, as does what is offered. I’m fortunate to live in a place where we have access to organic produce year-round, but even if your only option is to participate during the summer months, joining a CSA is definitely something you should look into.
There are generally several options available, so you can customize your membership to fit your needs. In most cases, you can select your basket frequency, size, pick-up time, and location based on what works best for you. In my case, I started with bi-weekly baskets and have since switched to weekly. I now pick up a basket every Wednesday, and I can honestly say that I can’t wait to pick it up to see what is included that week. My most recent basket included the following:
Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Red Onion, Red Mustards, Tatsoi, Red Leaf Lettuce, Apples, Arugula, Carrots, Parsley, Beets, Turnips, Collard Greens, Romaine Lettuce, Satsuma Mandarins/Murcott Tangerines, Kiwi and Grapefruit
Quite a list, isn’t it?!?
If you’re like me, you would never pick up such a variety of items on your own during your weekly shopping trip. And that right there is the beauty of a CSA program. Not only are you helping local farmers by enabling them to better plan their harvests, by providing a much needed cash flow at the beginning of each season, and by helping them get to know members of their community, you’re also pushed beyond your comfort zone when it comes to selecting your produce for the week.
In addition, joining a CSA program provides the following:
- A direct connection to the produce you eat – Believe me when I tell you that anything grown locally tastes one hundred times better than something that has traveled for days via truck (or worse) to reach you. And you’ll absolutely love knowing exactly where your produce comes from. There is nothing like it.
- The ability to support the efforts of local, organic farmers – I am a firm believer in shopping local for pretty much everything when you can. And let’s face it, in many areas of the country, there aren’t many local farmers left. I can tell you that, without a doubt, everyone I’ve met at South Coast Farms is incredibly passionate about what they’re doing. They believe in supporting their community. They believe in bringing the freshest, most nutrient-dense produce to your table. They believe in guaranteeing a reliable, healthy and fresh source of food. And I want to be a part of that.
- Encouragement to venture beyond your “go-to” items – I will admit that, for the first year, there were at least two items per basket that I had never even heard of, let alone tried. Let’s just say there was a lot of Googling happening behind the scenes to figure out how to slice/dice/prepare each new item, as well as a number of recipe searches to determine exactly how to serve that item in a way that my family would be excited about. Thankfully, most providers (including my own) share weekly recipe suggestions via email. I’ve tried many of their recommended recipes and they are very good. I’ve also been pulling together a collection of seasonal family favorites, which can then be used the following year.
- Encouragement to try new fruits and vegetables, and to eat seasonally – I can’t tell you how many times my boys have asked me “Is it from the farm?”, and then proceeded to try something they’d never tasted before, without hesitation. They firmly believe that “if it comes from the farm, it must be good”. I didn’t teach them this – it stems purely from their excitement about knowing where their food is coming from. That and the fact that they’ve quickly come to realize that the produce tastes so. darn. good. Eating seasonally means that you’re getting the maximum benefit from all of the naturally occurring phytonutrients in what you’re eating. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to boost your health.
- Affordability – Think about how much you currently spend for produce at your local market. And if you’re buying organic, you’re spending even more. Now think about how much packaging is involved in what you’re purchasing each week. In both cases, the answer is “a lot”. Joining a CSA program will enable you to save money, add more organic produce to your diet, and help the environment at the same time. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?
- Produce that tastes better, and is better for you – Really, do you need any other reason to join? Everything in your basket literally pops with flavor. In addition, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are eating produce that has been picked at the peak of ripeness (most likely that morning), and is bursting with all of the nutrients it was intended to provide. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
Do you participate in a CSA? If not, I would love more than anything for you to look into one. Please visit Local Harvest to find a program near you. Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did. Better health awaits you with your very first basket.
If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them . . . just leave them in the comments section below!
**Note: other than my membership in their CSA program, I am not affiliated with South Coast Farms in any way, nor am I receiving any compensation from them. I simply believe in what they are doing and am proud to support them.