CSA: Who’s your farmer?

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2016 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media
 
CSA is not a buzzword, it’s a way of life. Think about how meaningful it is to make real changes in the world by simply eating better and allocating your food dollars locally — every time you eat!
 
Joining a CSA will change your life — and your farmer’s life too. Think of it as “seed money” and a way to pay it forward to invest in a local supply of food. Share the risk of agriculture with family farmers in your community who work hard to feed you well and earn an honest living, not trick you with cheap food that is cheating your health.
 
Who cares who you are wearing. Who’s your farmer? If you don’t have one, you are missing out. It’s not a new idea and it just makes sense to return to our agrarian roots and local foodways for good health and strong communities.
 
And if you needed a convincing bonus, agriculture builds communities economically too.
 
CSA is a new name for an ancient practice when people knew where their food came from, ate in harmony with the seasons, enjoyed healthy diets and shared the risk with the farmer (weather!) for the benefit of protecting the community’s food source.
 
CSA (Community Supported or Community Shared Agriculture) is also known as “subscription farming.” You buy direct from a local farmer just like you would buy any subscription, but instead of receiving a magazine each week, you receive a “share” of fresh, locally grown or raised vegetables or fruit. Some farmers also offer CSA memberships for farm-fresh eggs, poultry, meat and dairy. Be sure to ask your farmer what’s available.
 
Sourcing produce from a farmer down the road is rewarding on many levels. It’s an outdoor activity and you learn so much about nutrition and sustainability; indeed we are what we (and the plants and animals) eat.
 
When you invest in a CSA, you buy eggs, vegetables and fruit picked that very morning — bursting with flavor and nutrition — and skip the chore of going to the store. A CSA allows the farm to become your very own supermarket offering superior flavor and taste. It’s brilliant.
 
The number of CSAs in the United States was estimated to be a total of 50 in 1990. Today, there are several thousand to choose from nationally and most of them are listed online. The government does not track CSAs, so there is no official count of how many there are in the United States officially, but LocalHarvest.org and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (http://afsic.nal.usda.gov/community-supported-agriculture-3) have the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, with over 5,000 listed. Locate them by entering your zip code in any of the sites listed.
 
Know your farmer, know your food concept is about building relationships and offers benefits beyond taste. By sourcing food locally every time we eat, we decentralize the food system making our food safer, healthier and a better value too, which means you look and feel better.
 
Every day make conscious choices about what you eat and opt out of processed food. You will have energy, lose weight, dissolve cravings, sleep better and your skin will radiate. When did we swap nutrition for convenience? Is it really less expensive or more convenient to be sick? Empty food calories clearly cost us more than any organic or locally sourced food.
 
A CSA typically runs from late spring through Thanksgiving. I’m a CSA member at multiple farms (HerondaleFarm.org) for grass-fed organic meat, greens, vegetables and eggs (student run #abcsa at Empire Farm, Copake), dairy and fruit (field-goods.com).
 
It’s easy. I signed up and the farm debits my card monthly and I can cancel at any time. I conveniently pick up the CSA shares on days specified. It alleviates the hassle of the supermarket and I’m forced to experiment come dinnertime.
 
Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up front, but some farmers will accept monthly payments. Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become connected. It is a great way to eat clean, fresh, local food on a budget and to simultaneously lift up family farms and the local economy and buying directly from family farms helps them stay in business too.
 
How do the farmers benefit from your CSA share?
 
• Marketing food early in the year, before 16-hour days in the field begin.
• Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow.
• Opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow.
 
How do you benefit from a CSA share?
 
• Eat fresh food full of flavor and maximum nutritional benefits.
• Exposure to new vegetables and new ways of cooking.
• Visit the farm and connect to nature.
• Teach kids about food from “their” farm; that’s the real happy meal.
• Develop a relationship with the farmer who feeds you.
• Learn about the benefits from farm to fork living.
• Contribute to economic development in your community.
 
Invest in locally grown food. Ask questions and meet your farmer! Rediscover the benefits of buying food direct with a CSA. It is fresher than anything in the supermarket, so you are more satisfied and less likely to eat empty calories. Stand up for your farming community and food choices. Your body will thank you — and the farmer will too. FarmOn!

 

To contact Tessa Edick, email tessa@farmonfoundation.org or on Twitter/IG @FarmOnFarmOn.

 
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