Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Joining A CSA Will Enrich Your Life And Your Community

By Ariana Mullins


Are you aware that the average food item in America travels 1,500 miles
before getting to your plate? Or that only 10% of the amount of fossil
fuel energy used in the world’s food system is for producing food? The
other 90% goes into packaging, transporting and marketing. Did you know that 97%
of fruit and vegetable varieties have become unavailable commercially
and replaced by only a few varieties since the turn of the 20th
century? Industrial agriculture was designed to produce mass quantities
of limited types of food cheaply, but now we are learning the real costs and short-sightedness of this system. Community Supported Agriculture
offers an sustainable option by reducing food miles, encouraging biodiversity and practicing farming methods that will
keep the land fertile for generations.  




What is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA for short, is a movement that brings farmers and their neighbors into a more direct, cooperative relationship. This concept migrated to the US from Japan in the mid-1980s and has grown to thousands of farms and over hundreds of thousands of community "members" who subscribe to regular intervals for the delivery of 
their farm products.  Some CSAs simply provide vegetables, fruits, and herbs, while others also supply meats, eggs, dairy products, and other items grown on their farms.





There are a lot of great reasons to join a CSA:



1. Know where your food comes from.  If you live within 100 miles from a farm, you probably have a CSA in your area, as well.  The food you receive will be fresh, and you can even visit the farm in most cases, to see how everything is grown!

2.  Support the Democracy of Small Farming.  An important element in the CSA concept is that of shared responsibility.  You pledge a certain amount of financial support, regardless of the amount of produce you receive.  The farmer works his hardest to maximize your investment, and so if it's a bumper year, you get a large bounty.  If it's a rough year, you will receive less in your delivery, but the farmer will still have the resources he needs to continue farming.  It's not easy for small, organic farmers these days, and having local backers provides the stability they need to keep doing it right.

3.  Save Money.  By sourcing your food locally, you are not having to add to the cost of the produce by paying for transport from a farm thousands of miles away!  In addition to this, you do not need to pay the overhead costs of a grocery store selling your food, since the food comes directly from the farm to you.

4.  Get Higher Quality Produce.  The food varieties you will receive from a CSA have been selected and planted for flavor, rather than for being durable for transport.  While much of the fruits and vegetables in stores have been bred for compact size, impunity to bruising, and late ripening time after picking, the farm-fresh vegetables and fruit provided from your local farm are grown for flavor (and sheer wonderfulness!)

5.  Get Involved in Local Food Production and Community.  Many CSA farms invite you to visit their grounds, and have a look at how they grown your food.  Oftentimes, work days and community parties are hosted on site, allowing opportunity to participate in the growing of your own food and getting to know other people and families in your community.

6.  Grow Your Local Economy.  Buying from someone in your own area keeps the money in your local economy.  Your dollars do not go to Kroger and huge farming aggregates-- they go to family owned businesses and individuals working hard to grow food in responsible, sustainable ways.  That is something you can feel really great about!

8.  Support Biodiversity.  On huge farms supplying grocery stores, there is very little diversity in crops.  They sow and grow the most popular, most sturdy and road-worthy specimens, only.  There is little interest in fruits and vegetables for their unique qualities and nuanced flavors.  Small farms, however, grow heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables, and are propagating varieties that have virtually dropped out the food supply.  Supporting your local farmer is great for local biodiversity!

9.  Take Part in Ecological StewardshipThe way we shop for our food either supports the ongoing industrialized food production system, which involves huge quantities of fuel and waste, and farming practices that harm our land and environmental resources; or it supports our local farmers who are working to preserve the biodiversity and integrity of our land.




Joining a CSA is good for the environment, good for the local economy, good for biodiversity, and good for you!  To find a CSA near you, you can check out localharvest.org/csa.



Sources:

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

http://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/what-is-community-supported-agriculture

http://www.healthyfoodforall.org/whyjoinacsa.htm

http://www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk/about/csa/BenefitsofCSA.cfm


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