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Has a farm share been on your to-do list but you haven’t gotten around to signing up yet? I hesitated joining a CSA for years. Through Community Supported Agriculture, consumers pay a farmer one lump sum at the beginning of the growing season and they get a share of the farm’s produce each week. I wasn’t sure if my family would be adventurous enough to try all the new produce we’d be getting. I didn’t know if I’d have the time to prepare all these new foods or if the weekly pick-up would be a hassle. Three summers ago, I finally got around to joining a local CSA mid-way through the season at a prorated cost. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out without having to commit to 20 weeks of kale and kohlrabi. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. I fell in love immediately, and my family has been enjoying delicious, organic local produce year-round ever since.
Top Ten Reasons Why I Love My CSA Farm Share
- It’s a bargain. Many people assume that a CSA farm share is very expensive, but in fact, it’s actually a bargain. This wonderful, freshly harvested produce is more affordable than the vegetables that travel across the country or the world to get to my local grocery store. To prove this point, I did price comparisons in July and September between my farm share veggies and the same veggies at my local grocery store. In July, the local, organic produce from my farm share cost 36 percent less than the equivalent conventionally grown produce at the grocery store, and the September savings was 52 percent.
- It tastes better. Fresh produce tastes better than old produce. Because my farm share vegetables are picked the day I get them, they taste better than the vegetables at the grocery store that have traveled by truck, boat, or airplane from other states or countries.
- It’s organic. There’s a debate about how important it is to avoid pesticides. Regardless of where you stand on that debate, I don’t think anyone would actively choose pesticide-laden produce over the organic version if given the choice. I love the peace of mind that comes from knowing that my farmer doesn’t spray chemicals on the produce that I feed my family. I don’t have to stand in the grocery store deliberating whether it’s worth the price difference to buy organic.
- It’s dirty. This may sound strange, but when I get home from the farm and empty all the produce out of the bags, I love the dirt that pours out onto my counter. It reminds me that these vegetables were just in the ground this morning. They haven’t been processed and machines haven’t touched them. Sometimes the veggies get a light rinse in the farm sink before I pick them up, but a little dirt is still there.
- It helps dictate meal planning. I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the possibilities when I’m meal planning, and I end up depending on the same old recipes over and over. With a farm share, I can zero in on the produce I bring home each week and experiment with a couple new recipes based on what I have.
- It imposes variety. I’m a creature of habit, so in the past I tended to eat the same food week after week. With a farm share, you get different things from week to week, so you can’t help eating a more varied diet. This is so essential to good health. I think most people could improve in this area, and buying a farm share is a great way to bring about this kind of change in your diet.
- It’s educational for my children. In order to learn how to make healthy food choices, children need to understand where their food comes from. I’d like my children to understand the difference between food that comes from a laboratory and food that comes from the earth. Last month I went into my daughter’s second grade classroom to help prepare food for a bake sale they were having. I brought some dried corn on the cob so we could make chocolate popcorn for the sale. The children pulled the kernels off the cob, mixed the ingredients for the topping, and popped the corn in an air popper. Their excitement was wonderful to see, but this sort of cooking was clearly a novelty to many of the kids. I was surprised to learn that some of the children had never seen popcorn being popped before. They’ve all eaten it, of course, but that popcorn they get at the movie theater bears little resemblance to the fluffy white beauties that were coming out of my air popper.
- It supports the local economy and minimizes our carbon footprint. It’s encouraging to know that my farm share supports the local economy. CSAs are thriving in the area where I live in Massachusetts, and I love being able to support our local agriculture. Also, the food doesn’t need to travel from far away, so it’s better for the environment. The average piece of produce at the grocery store travels many miles to get there, and you reduce your carbon footprint when you buy more local food.
- It provides summer bounty that can be preserved for winter. Last summer, we got a lot of corn from our farm share. I was thrilled to get all that corn, and I made loads of corn salsa that we enjoyed well into the winter. Cucumbers turned into pickles, cherry tomatoes were dried and frozen, and basil was turned into pints of pesto. When fresh, local produce is scarce in the dark days of winter, it’s wonderful to pull out a jar of preserved summer produce to enjoy.
- It creates a personal connection. It means a lot to be able to look the person in the eye who’s growing your food and say, “Thank you.” If I sit down with a bag of potato chips, I don’t feel grateful or connected. But if I slice the potatoes that my farmer gives me and cook my own potato chips, I feel gratitude and connection when I eat those chips and feed them to my family.
If you’ve been putting off joining a CSA, now is a great time to get on it. Check www.localharvest.org to find a list of farm shares in your area. You can also find farms by checking coffee shop bulletin boards and asking around. I hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy the bounty of a local farm share this summer.