Although they have grown in number and popularity in the last five years, CSA's are still a relatively new concept. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it is a method for farmers to ensure that their crops get sold, as well as a great way for local people to support their farms while getting some of the freshest and best food in their neighborhood!
Generally, individuals buy their "share" in advance, paying a fee for a set number of weeks. Each week they return to the farm to pick up a box of vegetables and fruits that make up the week's crops. Because the food is very fresh, often times picked the same day that it is distributed, the health and wellness benefits cannot be understated. The nutritional value of a fruit/vegetable depletes the longer it is stored after being picked. But there are also benefits to the community when people choose to spend their money locally and when they spend that money on farms.
For instance did you know that for every hundred dollars spent locally, around 73 dollars goes back into the community. By contrast, every hundred spent in a chain store or corporation sees only about 43 dollars returning to the place it is spent. A shocking fact when you consider just how much the retail giants make in a day. Furthermore, by spending the money on farm food you vote with your dollar to continue to have farms as a part of the local culture. The correlation has been made between the health of a community and the access to fresh and local produce. In places where there are few fresh options there are higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In short local farms are a lifeline to the people who eat from them.
But all the somber facts aside, joining a CSA can be fun! Every week is an adventure in food, with the box being filled with the newest and freshest of what that farm has to offer. Most CSA's give out recipe ideas that directly relate the weeks share. It is a chance to try new foods and to experiment with old favorites. Getting a box (and of course making the commitment to cook the food), will also help to give you that 5-6 servings of produce per day that we are supposed to have. And that does not just make your doctor happy, eating right can make you feel great! It can also improve digestion, immune functions, heart health, and even make your skin look better along with giving you more energy and less fatigue. And we can all use some of that!
Basically, when you take part in a CSA you win and everybody in your community wins with you. Not to mention you are winning while eating delicious food in the process! This is what it means to think globally and act locally. But don't take my word for it. Give it a try and see for yourself.
To find a CSA in your area check out www.localharvest.com
Sutton, Eliza MPH. "Obesity, Poverty, and the case for Community Supported Agriculture in New York State". Hunger Action Network, New York. January 2005.
Robinson, Nandi. "Why Buy Local? An Assessment of the Advantages of Shopping at Locally Owned Businesses". Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development. September 2010.