For fresh organic produce, you cannot beat a CSA, a Community Supported Agriculture farm. Look at this gorgeous bounty in my farm share this week:
All those fruits and vegetables came in the large box delivered to my pick-up location, less than an hour from the farm. Now that’s fresh! I know the zucchini had just been picked because I could still feel the little prickly “hairs” on the green skin. The vibrant red tomatoes smell like tomatoes should, as if you could taste the sunshine that ripened them on the vine.
How does a CSA work? You pay a flat fee to subscribe to the CSA and receive your share of farm fresh produce every week (or every other week, depending on your plan). You do not get to choose what comes in your box each week; you literally share in the weekly harvest on the farm. That’s one of the wonderful things about a CSA — you know you are getting local food that is in season. It hasn’t been grown halfway across the world and spent days being shipped to you before it sat in the store. By participating in a CSA, you are helping the environment with a reduction of the burning of fuel to ship the produce, and with the support of earth-friendly organic farming methods. As a bonus, because the fruits and vegetables are so fresh, they last longer once you bring them home. Something that might wilt or wither a few days after purchase from the grocery store can last a week or two when it comes straight from the farm to you.
What’s the downside to a CSA? To me there’s no downside, but I will say that it can seem pricey if you’re used to buying conventionally-grown produce from the grocery store. Furthermore, in a typical CSA, while you share in the bounty of produce, you also share in any decline in production due to drought, flooding or pests. Some CSA farms will supplement their produce under agreements with other local farms to make up any dips in production and to provide a little more variety to the boxes each week.
I pay $30 for the large farm share (plus a $3 delivery fee so I do not have to travel to the farm) and as you can see above I received:
- a bunch of carrots
- a box of green beans
- three large potatoes
- four tomatoes
- two grapefruit
- a head of red leaf lettuce
- a bunch of kale
- a box of green grapes
- 3 large Fuji apples
- two big zucchini
- two cucumbers
So what did my four-year-old and I have for lunch? Grapes, cucumbers (with hummus), and apple slices. My older girls gobbled the other apples for an after school snack, and the red leaf lettuce and cucumbers made it into our dinner salad. The farms often provide recipes to teach you how to prepare unusual vegetables (my CSA favorite is kohlrabi with olive oil and salt!) and use up your produce.
I have seen news articles lately that declare that organic produce is no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. That does not bother me at all. The better flavor alone is worth any extra cost! I dare you to taste test a conventionally grown strawberry versus an organic one. Then consider the fact that organic food is not grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Add in the freshness of my organic CSA produce and the environmental benefits of organic farming methods, and I’m sold on organic food!
I’ve belonged to a few different CSAs over the years and been happy with all of them. My current subscription is with Tanaka Farms, the largest U-pick farm in Orange County, California. Here’s a photo of my youngest, strawberry picking on the farm two years ago:
To find a CSA in the United States or Canada, go to Local Harvest and search for your location.
Do you have a share in a CSA farm? Do you buy organic produce? Why or why not?