By now, most of us are barely hanging onto our New Year’s Resolutions to eat healthier, and looking for a fresh way to renew that commitment. Here’s one easy way to enjoy more fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce this summer. With spring just around the corner, now is the time to sign up for a CSA.
How it Works
Beginning in the 1960s in Germany, CSAs (or Community Supported Agriculture) became increasingly popular over the last 20 years. Here’s the deal: a local farmer will offer a certain number of shares to the public. You can purchase a share (think of it like a subscription), which usually includes of a box of vegetables and/or other farm products every week. This share is delivered to you (or more often, you go pick it up from a local venue) every week throughout the farming season.
Why CSA’s are a Good Idea
A CSA provides you with super-fresh, seasonally appropriate food, some of which may be completely new to your grocery-store-influenced palate. CSAs also provide you with the opportunity to develop a relationship with the farmer, and to learn about how the food you eat every day is grown. Furthermore, choosing a CSA share provides you an alternative to buying vegetables from remote locations. This reduction in transport distance drastically reduces the amount of CO2 emitted to get your food from field to plate. Many CSA farmers are also organic, allowing you access to food that is free from pesticides and inorganic fertilizers.
What About the Cost?
Researchers at the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems recently compared CSA produce prices to those at commercial grocery stores and retail outlets. Here’s what they found:
Without including extras and you-pick produce, CSAs provided a better dollar value in 6 out of 15 cases. Yet, many of the benefits incurred by using CSA do not have a monetary value. When it comes down to it, choosing to purchase a CSA share is the more environmentally conscious and healthy choice. Cost-wise, it averages to about $20 per week. And even if that’s more than you might usually spend at the grocery store, this gives you a good reason to eat more veggies!
How to Find a CSA Near You
An excellent web resource, called Local Harvest, allows you to view a US map showing where farmer’s markets, family farms, and CSA farms are located. The website even allows you to put in your zip code to find the CSA closest to you. Check it out here, and happy eating!