CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, have grown in popularity over the years. In a CSA, consumers can buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. The farmer offers a certain number of shares, or boxes of vegetables or other farm products to the public. Customers in turn pay in advance for a share and receive a box or bag of seasonal produce each week during the farming season. There are several different CSA formats – half shares, seasonal shares (with more produce grown in hot houses, you can now get winter shares), biweekly shares, or market shares where you choose your own produce. Fish, local meat and flower CSAs are also available.
There are advantages for both the farmer and the consumer with the CSA model. For farmers, they receive early payment, which helps with their cash flow at a lean time of year, and they have the chance to meet the people who eat the food they grow. For the customer, they eat just picked produce, which is at its most flavorful and nutritious. They are often introduced to different kinds of produce and new preparation ideas. They have the opportunity to get to know the farmers who produce their food, a rare option today with conventional supermarkets where produce is cellophane-wrapped and has traveled 1500 miles from farm to plate.
I’ve been a member of several CSAs over the years, but the spring CSA I am participating in now is clearly the most unique. Fresh produce is limited in spring in New England, but my CSA bag is full of thoughtfully chosen and healthy items. Run by nutritionist Nicole Cormier, her bags of “locally sourced, fresh picked, handmade, sustainably grown, non-toxic, real food” are designed to be nutritionally complete. They contain items like sunchokes, pea greens, fresh chevre goat cheese, homemade almond milk, local cornmeal, black beans, herbs, spices, honey, farm fresh eggs and locally grown mushrooms and grains. I have received locally made skin salves, delicious homemade granola and dried fruits, green juice drinks and even a locally made reusable sandwich and snack bag. Nicole also includes recipes and nutritional information. Her CSA model is a little different from the typical one in that she uses many farmers who all grow something different.
I can hardly wait to see what’s in my CSA bag – it’s apparent each bag is packed with love and care. Check out the CSAs in your area. You’ll not only enjoy eating the freshest and most nutritious produce possible, but the convenience of pre-chosen food too. And, you’re helping to support local farmers.
Information compiled from http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ and deliclioiuslivingnutrition.com.
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