If you haven't heard of a CSA yet, you'll be pleasantly surprised with all the wonderful benefits that come with locally grown produce that came straight from the hands of your local farmer.
What's a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's basically a model that allows local farmers to connect directly with consumers by consistently supplying them with a share of their harvest. This is done when consumers pledge a subscription to the farm. There are established CSA locations all across the United States, Canada, and some parts of Europe, although it is more than likely that CSAs exist in other regions of the world as well. Here are a few reasons you should immediately look into your local CSA program:
1. Try New Fruits & Veggies
Usually CSA boxes are packed for you in advance with whatever your farmer feels are the freshest, most abundant crops available. Having a variety of fresh fruits and veggies you may not normally buy can actually encourage you to take them on in the kitchen. We recommend assessing your box's contents, looking up recipes featuring those ingredients, and then planning your meals for the week accordingly.
2. Support Local Farmers
When you subscribe to a CSA, you are directly supporting the farmers and their families. Paying for a subscription helps the farmers receive a consistent income they can put towards their farms and their families.
3. Know Up-Front Where Your Food Comes From
Coming face to face with the people growing your food will greatly enhance your relationship with your diet, the community, and yourself. CSA subscriptions are a wonderful opportunity to see how the fruits and vegetables you enjoy at the dinner table are harvested from the earth. You'll appreciate fresh picks so much more when someone hands them to you personally. Bonus? If you ask, your farmer can give you some great gardening tips for things you want to grow at home.
4. It's More Economical
Because CSA programs usually charge a flat rate per week, month, or season, you're paying a set price each time. A subscription can cost anywhere between $15 and $45 a week, depending on where you live and how many items you get. At Couple Berry Farms in Vista, CA, you can get a mini box (7-10 items) for a measly $27 per week, or a regular box (12-15 items) for a reasonable $32 per week. That's for fresh, pesticide-free, non-GMO, hand-picked produce. Pair that with cheap pantry staples like rice, potatoes, and pasta, and you can feed a a family of up to 4 people for roughly $60 a week!
5. There's Less Transportation Involved
With either the farmer dropping your box directly to your home, or you picking your box from the farm stand, transportation is greatly decreased because the crops aren't being hauled over to a packaging and distribution facility and then driven again to various grocery stores. That means less energy is used, and you, the final destination, get to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables soon after they were harvested.
6. You Become a Priority
A lot of times, farmers will give their CSA subscribers the VIP treatment when it comes to fresh picks of the season, or crops that are a little tougher to grow. For example, if heirloom tomatoes are reaching the end of the season and only a few of them are left, your farmer will likely reserve those for you, the subscriber, instead of selling them to a one-time visitor at the farm stand. Subscribers also get the freshest picks of the day, and are normally the first ones to get the first batch of strawberries, lemons, etc. of the season.
If you're a North County San Diego local, be sure to check out Couple Berry Farms in Vista, CA. If you're not, check out their website to get an idea of what a typical CSA box looks like, how they price their boxes, and the dedication and quality that goes into a local farm.