There are many reasons for the growing interest in eating locally grown foods. They taste better and are more nutritious, local produce is always fresher and there's no guilt about carbon emissions when you buy from local growers!
But how do we go about finding locally grown foods? The produce lining the grocery store shelves tends to be out of season fruits and veggies coming from all over the world. Rarely will we find foods grown locally by small farmers. While some people may have the time and space to grow their own food, many who do not still want to enjoy the benefits of eating locally grown foods.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy locally grown foods is to join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program. When you join a CSA you are purchasing a share in a local farmer's harvest. CSA members are asked to pay for their share at the beginning of the growing season when farmers tend to need cash to purchase seeds and equipment for the upcoming season. Once harvest begins, CSA members receive regular shares of the harvest. These shares are usually available for on farm pick up once a week, or at a set pick up location, often at local farmers markets.
Joining a CSA is an easy way to enjoy locally grown food and to support small, local farmers. It is also a great way to discover new and tasty foods that are rarely found on grocery store shelves. Joining a CSA also offers members the chance to develop relationships with the people growing their food. Connecting with the farms and farmers growing your food allows for a greater appreciation of the value of eating healthy, locally grown foods. Farm visits are often encouraged for members at least once in the growing season and these visits are learning opportunities for those interested in understanding how their food is grown.
Perhaps the thought of purchasing a share in a harvest before it has even been grown is a little daunting for some. For those of us who prefer to shop around for their weekly veggies, a farmers market might be just the thing. As the demand for locally grown foods increases, farmers markets seem to be popping up everywhere, providing consumers with the chance to eat locally grown foods and to get to know the farmers growing those foods. Farmers markets are generally open once a week during the growing season and can be a fun and interactive way to enjoy local produce.
Since farmers markets provide a venue for many local farmers and artisans to offer their wares, they tend to have a wide variety of products for sale. While a CSA may offer fresh fruits and veggies, at a farmers market , it is not unusual to find fresh baked goods, locally produced cheese, and handmade crafts.
While it may be hard to beat the convenience of a 24 hr grocery store offering foods from around the globe, for those looking to enjoy the superior flavor and nutrition of locally grown foods, there are some great options. The next time you chomp down on a waxy, imported and out of season apple, consider perusing your local farmers market for what's in season or ask around about joining a CSA; you never know what tasty delight you might find when you choose to enjoy locally grown foods!