This year I decided to invest in a share at a local farm, this is called Community Supported Agriculture or CSA for short. When I started talking about it, I noticed that the majority of my family and friends have never heard of a CSA. Whether this is a new concept, or even if you are already familiar but have never tried it, I am going to break down exactly what it is and why you should consider joining one!
To give you a little background, CSAs are close to my heart. I actually worked on several farms in my dietetic internship as part of a ‘Farm to Table’ rotation. All of the farms offered a CSA in the community and this is when I realized what a beautiful opportunity it was. To be a shareholder in a farm that sets high standards for quality produce is a truly unique experience in this day and age when so many people are disconnected with where our food is coming from and how heavily processed it can be. In Community Supported Agriculture, members pick up a share of fresh produce weekly or bi-monthly from the season’s harvest. Some CSAs may include other foods such as eggs, meat and even fresh flowers. In a CSA, you are supporting your local economy and providing a cash flow for your farmers early in the season. CSAs promote sustainability, which means that we are minimizing a negative impact on the environment, protecting animal welfare and public health, as well as ensuring that food has not traveled far to make it to the consumer’s home. Learn more about sustainability here, here and here. You will have the opportunity to try new vegetables and recipes that you may not have eaten before such as garlic scapes, kohlrabi and chard (these are all delicious, I promise!). Another benefit is that you eat foods that are in season. Research shows that produce retains peak nutrients directly at the time of harvest. This means you will get more vitamins and minerals from your fruits and vegetables when they spend less time in travel and storage. You can’t beat the fresh flavor either! Many people also find that because they have already invested their money into the share, they end up cooking at home more frequently to use up all that healthy produce, saving on the cost of eating out. Preparing food at home tends to be better for your health in the long run, so it is truly a win-win situation.
Let me tell you more about my personal experience with my CSA so far and why I think it has been one of the best decisions I made this year! I started researching online about the different ones available in my area and found that the best quality and value would be Shenandoah Seasonal. Just read their “About Our Farm” section and I think you will fall in love with their story too! They explain it best right on their website: “Community Supported Agriculture: a link between you and your farmers that encourages stewardship of our land and healthy, organic living”. You have no idea how excited I am each Wednesday when I pick up my share of fresh produce from our downtown walking mall. The picture above shows our first share of the season which included garlic scapes, arugula, head lettuce, kohlrabi, Napa cabbage, radishes, Siberian kale and spinach. They have a farmer’s market style pick up, so even if you are not a member, you can still take home fresh local produce from the harvest. So far, I have met 3 out of the 4 farmers along with other shareholders at the pick up spot. I get really excited when I think about all of the new recipes I am going try and healthy meals we are going to make at home. I know I am not alone in my excitement, as you can tell how passionate the farmers are about what they do and how happy the other shareholders are in their investment. You connect directly with the farmers that are growing your food and leave with new ideas on how to use all of the vegetables, fruits and fresh herbs. Thanks to social media, I am able to see pictures the farmers post of their day-to-day operation. They also send out a newsletter with recipes and updates for the weekly share. When you invest in Community Supported Agriculture, you are investing in your health and your local community.
Now that you have learned more about what Community Support Agriculture is, I know you will want to try it out! How do you find one near you? This website helps you locate CSAs and farms near you by entering your city or zip code. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have!