By Asha Kreiling
On a quick stint to my local neighborhood market this afternoon, I left with bag of carrots, a head of celery, and a package of blueberries. After further inspection of the produce labels on these items, I discovered they were all grown in California. Hmm … I live in New York. From an economic and environmental sustainability standpoint, this doesn’t make much sense. Clearly, these foods are far from local, and it’s likely they were doused in chemicals before they embarked on a gasoline-powdered, climate-controlled, cross-country journey to my table. Alas, I am guilty of purchasing produce that’s hardly fresh or sustainable mostly out of convenience. Perhaps it’s time for me to hop on the CSA bandwagon this next season …
If you aren’t familiar with what CSA is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Members of a CSA pre-pay a local farm of choice for an entire season of vegetables; sometimes fruit, herbs, flowers, honey, dairy, eggs, meat are included, too. This payment system provides farmers the income up front when it’s needed most — when farmers are planning out the season, buying seed, tools, equipment and so on. Typically, each week members receive a box of freshly harvested produce. Depending on the farm’s program, CSA boxes can be delivered to your door, are distributed at local farmers’ markets, or can be picked up directly from the farm. You can’t get much closer to your food’s origins than that.
Every week’s box is different, and a good CSA will work hard to provide top quality crops and a fair amount of variety from week to week. Members are usually at the mercy of what the farm produces and the farmers’ decisions about what goes into the boxes each week, but in a good way. You get a bountiful supply of fresh vegetables that are organic, in season and local. It’s common for members to get vegetables they’ve never eaten or heard of before, but that’s the beauty of CSA. You may get inundated with obscure radishes one week and more chile peppers than one could ever figure out what to do with another week, but it motivates you to be creative and try new things that you likely wouldn’t have tried otherwise.
The reduced amount of control and predictability of what you get each week may seem like a downside to some, but the pros outweigh any potential cons:
Go find a CSA program near you. http://www.localharvest.org/csa/