Fresh Food to Your Doorstep: Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)

163204417You want to improve your health? Get to know your local “farm-acy.” That’s where you will find the natural health care system growing from the ground up.

I recently tried a local organic Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Stouffville, Ontario near where I live. I just ordered one box and plan to try it again. Everything smelled so fresh! The box was full of greens—greenhouse-grown salad blend, baby arugula, fresh herbs like basil, dill and parsley, chard, along with a little container of maple syrup. This is the kind of food that gets my mouth watering, and I made a smoothie right away. And buying food through a CSA is a great means to get to know your local farmers.

When you join a CSA, you pay a set amount at the beginning of the growing season. In return you receive a box of whatever the crop brought in that week from participating growers. The only catch is there isn’t a set list of produce you’ll receive, but you can expect variety and often certified organic as well. The farms usually sell organic eggs, meat and poultry at a separate cost.

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CSAs typically run during the harvest season between May and October. The farmers will deliver to your home if you live nearby. Point is, it’s fresh food directly from the source!

Here are five reasons to get involved with your local CSA:

1.  Build Relationships With Local Farmers: It’s easy to eat your food, but do you know your food? Your farmer will provide you with information about their farming practices, the farm and the many vegetables, herbs and other healthy foods they provide. You will have confidence knowing you have made a connection with your farmer and your food. When you get to know your farmer, they may also offer special deals near the end of the season. Who doesn’t like a deal?!

2. Try New Foods: The CSA I participated with also provided organic ingredients that I don’t typically purchase, such as wild leeks, ramps and a Japanese greens mix with mibuna, mustard and tatsoi (exotic!). There are CSAs that also help you in the kitchen and provide simple recipe ideas. The CSA also included recipes for salad, smoothies, spring stir-fry, and a ramp pesto.

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3. Save Money: When you compare the produce you get to prices at the store, there is a reasonable chance you are saving money with your CSA box, as long as you use your ingredients (and don’t let them go to mush in the crisper). When you support local farmers, you cut the costs of the middleman’s trucks and retailers. The money stays with the farmer, who gets to make a living growing delicious food for the community.

4. Eat Foods in Season: There is nothing more satisfying than eating food that’s been freshly picked. When you eat foods in season, you give your body exactly what it needs. Foods in the spring such as spinach and chard will purify and detox your body, while foods like cilantro and peppermint will cool your body during the summer heat.

5. Enjoy a Family Affair: CSAs are a good way to be more proactive with your family when it comes to cooking and dining. The CSA recipes are an excellent way to use the fresh produce for a delicious dinner with family and friends.

While CSAs won’t cover off all the items on your grocery list, they’re a great opportunity to support your local growers, get better acquainted with seasonal foods and eat fresh!

Sources:
Mooth, B., “A Getting-Started Guide to CSA’s,” SparkPeople website; http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1561, last accessed May 8, 2014.
Watson, M., “Benefits of Community Supported Agriculture,” About.com web site; http://localfoods.about.com/od/csa1/tp/Benefits-Of-Community-Supported-Agriculture.htm.
“What are Community Supported Agriculture Farms?” David Suzuki Foundation web site; http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/what-are-community-supported-agriculture-farms/, last accessed May 8, 2014.