Those are just some of the reasons for joining a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA).
What Is a CSA?
A CSA is like a subscription-based produce service from a local farmer. You give the farmer a deposit at the beginning of the season, usually in February, and each week during the spring and summer, you get a basket of his or her harvest.
A typical basket might include lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions, potatoes, peaches, plums, apricots, blueberries, lettuce, broccoli, eggplant, even herbs, eggs and honey.
Each farm basket is different, depending on what's in season, what's ripe, and what the farmer grows.
Sometimes you have to go to the farm to pick up your basket, some CSAs allow you to pick up at local farmer's markets, and some even deliver.
You can find CSAs in your area, with prices and details about what's offered at local farmer's markets, natural foods stores and local farms.
Why Join a CSA?Here are nine great reasons to join a CSA:
- You will expand your picky eaters' palates. Bring the kids to the pick-up with you, and they're bound to get more interested in food.
It won't happen instantaneously, and it won't make your vegetable-averse five-year-old suddenly crave broccoli. But over time, it will have an impact.
- You get terrific, fresh (often organic) produce that tastes great. Your tomatoes will be red because they are ripe, not because they've been gassed. And your apples and cucumbers won't have waxy, shellac-like skins.
- You'll save money. Prices generally run $25-$40 a week for a full share (half shares are also available). In our case, a share was an enormous Rubbermaid storage container full of produce each week.
- You will be supporting local farmers in your community. You'll get to know the people who provide food for your family.
- You'll discover new kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Last year, we enjoyed garlic scapes (like garlic-flavored chives), black raspberries (so sweet) and mezzuna (similar to arugula).
- You'll learn how food is grown. Last year, I was shocked to pull out two sticks from our basket one week. At the bottom of the sticks were heads of garlic! I had no idea garlic needed to be dried, then twisted off.
- You'll eat more fruits and vegetables. They'll be in your fridge anyway -- might as well eat them.
- You'll be saving the environment. Your food won't be shipped or trucked from long distances, so it will use less energy to get to you. Plus, many of the farmers who participate in CSAs are committed to organic and sustainable farming practices.
- You'll be teaching your kids important lessons about where food comes from and what the consequences of weather and other conditions are on our food.
We only had strawberries for one or two weeks last year, because the cold winter had killed off a lot of the crop. Since my kids had seen strawberries in the supermarket in February, they had no idea how the seasons and weather affect what we eat.
Incidentally, those were the best berries we ate all season. And my kids learned that really good ripe strawberries aren't normally two inches long, aren't hard enough to withstand a two-year-old's squeeze, and taste as sweet as candy.