BY: HOLLY LARSON, MS, RD
While many of us have good intentions around wanting to shop local and eat healthier, for most of us, life just gets in the way. And with only 1 in 10 of us actually eating enough fruits and vegetables, we need all the help we can get. A CSA is one effective tool to both support local agriculture and eat more veggies. Plus, it’s fun and delicious.
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA is a membership subscription to a local farm. Members buy-in early in the session - the time that farmer’s budgets are the tightest. Each week during the harvest season, members receive a box with their share of the harvest. Members are taking part in the risk - if the farmer has a particular vegetable that flops, members won’t get to eat it. But, if farmers have a huge success, members benefit, too!
What is included in a CSA share?
This depends entirely on the farm. While CSAs were traditionally just veggies and perhaps fruits, the potential now is much greater. CSA shares can include herbs, eggs and even meat or bread, honey or jam. And, some farms even have a farm store. If you’re picking up your share at the farm, you may also be able to purchase locally made cookies, locally harvested honey and more. It can be a restorative change of scenery from your regular grocery store or curbside pick up for groceries.
What are the benefits of joining a CSA?
SUPPORTING LOCAL AGRICULTURE
With no middle man, all of your cash investment goes straight to your farmer.
Having access to fresh, locally grown produce“Normal” right now is to have food transported around the world so that we can eat foods out of season. Joining a CSA allows you to enjoy veggies that were picked right before they were placed in your market box, at a farm near you.
By purchasing produce through your local CSA, you will be significantly cutting down the resources (energy, transportation, cost) associated with shipping fruits and vegetables long distances. Plus, if your budget gets tight one week, you’re still guaranteed fresh fruits and veggies.
EATING MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Only 1 in 10 adults in the US eats the recommended amount of veggies - this even with a boost to the data from french fries and potato chips. We’re so very far from meeting the mark.
Since the veggies will already be in your kitchen, you may as well eat them.
We tend to feel most comfortable with what is familiar, especially around food. Joining a CSA helps us to get outside of our comfort zone with new kinds of fruits and vegetables and new varieties. Have you ever eaten a Brandywine tomato? They’re amazing
What are the barriers to joining a CSA?
While CSAs are becoming more popular, they still aren’t well known. Articles like this help to spread the word.
For many of us, being able to shell out a full membership to a CSA can feel like a lot. Some farms are able to offer payment plans. If you’re thinking about joining a CSA in the future, you can set aside a little bit each paycheck so that you’ll be able to afford a membership more easily.
For many folks, that is still too high of a barrier, which is why grant funding can really make the difference. And research shows that this is a good investment. Investing in the very foods that make a difference to health outcomes saves a lot of money in the long run.
See if your employer can be a drop-off point for a CSA. Not only does this help the farmer to have more members in the CSA share, but it also saves you a trip.
Bonus: you and your co-workers can swap ideas and recipes of how to prepare fresh fruits and veggies each week.
If your local farm has members pick up their own shares, that can be a barrier, too. If a few folks in your neighborhood are buying into your local CSA, you can take turns doing pick up.
How can I find a local CSA?
A great resource is the Local Harvest database. If they don’t have a CSA near you, you can ask at your local farmer’s market for recommendations.