I grew up in the city, and like most urbanites the closest I got to a farm was the produce section of the supermarket. Barring an elementary school field trip or two, we don’t often have the pleasure of shaking hands with our food producers, and doing just that would require a costly tropical trip if we’re buying bananas and papayas. Given widespread food recalls from contamination and questionable factory farming practices, it’s in our best interest to know exactly where our food comes from and how it’s produced. The easiest and most delicious way to do this is to go local. Luckily for us city folk, we have the bounty of farmers’ markets and now CSAs (community supported/shared agriculture) to bring the farm directly to our kitchen table.
PSA FOR CSA'S
Community-supported agriculture is exactly what it sounds like. You, along with other members of your community, support a particular farm or farms by purchasing food shares before the start of the growing season, then enjoy the spoils as the growing season unfolds. If this idea is new to you, it’s likely because CSAs are a relatively new model in North America, growing from only two farms in the U.S. in 1986 to more than 6,500 in 2012. (Check LocalHarvest for a CSA near you!) This recent growth is telling – CSAs work. The mutually beneficial business model takes many forms depending on the needs and capabilities of both the farmers and shareholders, but ultimately everyone wins.
THE GOOD, THE RADICCHIO, AND THE UGLY
If you’re ready to take the plunge, the first thing you’ll notice is that CSAs come in all seasons and sizes and completely depend on your location and the capacity of the farm. I’ve seen shares of dairy, meat, fruit, vegetables, and eggs (even flowers) both big and small, full-year and month-long. But despite their differences, there are a few commonalities.
1. Good quality. This is really the freshest and the best that farmers have to offer, delivered directly to your doorstep (or more commonly a pre-arranged pick-up location). If you ever do get a bag of dud spuds, you can often arrange for a replacement in the next share. These are good people who want you to love their food.
2. Variety. Most CSAs kindly provide a list of your share’s contents via newsletter before you pick it up. This is an immense help to meal planning and also a great way to introduce yourself to new products with debatable pronunciation. Celeriac, anyone?
3. Ugly buglies. You will undoubtedly open your mystery box and see a few five-legged parsnips and the occasional worm peeking up from your lettuce. This is normal. Farmers produce food to be eaten and enjoyed, not to be plasticized on the front page of a glam mag. Insects are an important part of the ecosystem and often, ugly just tastes better.
-Guest Post, Written by ANDREA MOORE
Andrea is a keen traveler and has studied biology, languages, and sailing. She works in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as a marine biologist, writer, and editor.