Many friends have asked why I joined a CSA (a.k.a. community-supported agriculture, or farm share). The short answer is that the food quality is extremely high, putting store-bought produce to shame. The squash and peppers and corn are grown on an organic farm so close to my house that I get them within days, if not hours, of being picked. Freshness really does matter.
But the long answer involves things like carbon footprint and farmland preservation. If that onion you diced for your soup tonight was shipped here from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, think about the environmental impact of all that shipping. But if it was grown locally, you didn’t just get a higher-quality vegetable (one that didn’t have to suffer all that bumping and jostling in transport). You helped support a local farmer. When enough people do that, they’re helping farmers stay in business and keep their land. When not enough people do, you end up with more subdivisions and fast-food chains where farmland used to be.
Sure, you don’t have to join a CSA to keep local farmers afloat. You can visit farmers markets and farm stands. But what happens in a bad year, when yields are low and peak weekends are rained out? What happens to farmers then?
A recent article in The New York Times examines this very question, focusing on farmers on the drenched East Coast. (Tomatoes here in Colorado suffered, too, though one organic farmer I talked to said he’s happy about the long-term impact on the water table.) By joining a CSA, you’re giving farmers your money up front, in exchange for about 20 weeks of deliveries from June to October, depending on the share. That’s a totally different picture for the farmer.
So click on over to “Closing Out a Season Farmers Want to Forget” and then consider if a CSA might make sense for you.