Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

This year, Don and I finally took the plunge and joined a CSA. When I say "Don and I", I of course mean "I" with some pestering and one-sided dialogue about ecology, local economics, supporting small business, the environment, and our health until Don finally said, OK Honey. It's a big step for us. It's about making decisions that support what we believe in, instead of choosing the easiest, cheapest path available.

It's one thing for us to mouth support for, say, environmentally sound practices. Or for small family businesses. For buying local and organic. For making our diets a little more vegetable based and a little less meaty. It's another to actually make a choice that's more than just a gesture; to commit a big (big!) chunk of our food budget to something like this. Don is all for supporting small farmers, and he's in favor of organically grown foods. He even agrees that it's worth making a financial commitment to those ideals. What worries him is that I'll be making him eat more vegetables... strange things that we don't eat yet, like "eggplant", "kale", or "Swiss chard".

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a farming system in which small-scale farmers sell shares of their crops ahead of time to local consumers. So Don and I send a check now that is for the entire growing season of 2007. Starting in May we will get a weekly supply of all kinds of vegetables, fruits, herbs, even flowers, whatever is being harvested that week, until the season ends in late October. There are multiple benefits for farmers, consumers, and the community in general. The farmer gets guaranteed buyers for their crops and they get that money before the growing season when it's most needed, which provides a buffer against a bad season or a failed crop. CSA's tend to be small family or co-op farms that grow a very wide variety of stuff. Ours, for example, is offering dozens of different items, from strawberries in the Spring to garlic in the Fall. They also tend to be organic, or at least practice ecologically sound growing methods. Those qualities make the kind of farms that do CSA much, much better for the environment than the enormous, mono-cropping corporate farms that supply grocery stores nationwide. The two tenets of ecological eating are, 'buy organic' and 'buy local'... CSA's fulfill both, or at least this one does as it's certified organic.

Don's one requirement before signing up was that we actually drive by and see the farm, to make sure that it didn't just exist in Internet-land. It's about 20 minutes away, in the same county as our town. It's nice to think that such a large percentage of the food we'll be eating this year is coming from right here. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, since living in Vermont. I'm exited, jazzed that we're finally going for it. No more guilt-inducing Chilean tomatoes! No more spinach, bagged and shipped from California! I can't wait for spring.

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