Buying Into Local Farms

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Small family farms, once on the endangered species list in the American landscape, are making a huge comeback, thanks to a new model of agriculture. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offers farmers a guaranteed income during these uncertain economic times, and gives communities food security.

The way it works is the consumer (that’s you) pays up front the yearly cost of a weekly share of the farm’s harvest. During the growing season, you visit the farm each week, and pick up an assortment of fresh, locally grown produce. The benefit for farmers is that they know exactly how much to grow and can cover the cost up front. The benefits to your family are improved nutrition, food security, and the knowledge of exactly where your food came from, whose hands touched it and how it was grown.

Becoming a CSA member is also good for the environment. In our country, the typical forkful has traveled 1,500 miles from the farm to your mouth! When you join a farm, you avoid all those diesel emissions from transporting the food. Plus, the produce hasn’t been commuting for the past week, so it’s much fresher and tastier.

Never buy food from strangers! Many conventional meat-farming practices are cruel and unhealthy. When you buy locally, you can see how the animals live. Local farms are small-scale producers who generally allow animals access to open pasture. They graze on grasses (much healthier for them and us), nurse their young, and live a good life. Unless you see for yourself how the animals live, you can’t know for sure how they are treated.

Being a member of a farm helps build a closer community. When share members come to the farm to pick up their weekly box of produce, they inevitably end up swapping recipes, chatting with the farmer, and discussing the weekly bounty. CSAs often become gathering places, hosting potluck dinners, special events and even classes.

You connect your children to the land. Many of our children suffer from NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder) and can recognize more than 1,000 brand names of processed foods, but can’t recognize 10 fresh vegetable growing in the field. When you take your children to a farm, they make the connection that their food comes from human hands working the earth. 
Connect yourself to the land and the season. Nothing tastes quite like a crisp apple on a cool fall day, or hot buttered corn off a summer grill, or baked squash in midwinter. When your family is a member of a farm, you are treated to seasonal produce. Produce naturally tastes better in season.
Get to know your region! Farms are beautiful and it’s fun to visit them. Be a tourist in your hometown! Many of our small farms rely on agro-tourism. Visiting a working farm gives your family a taste of your region’s history and local flavor.

Money spent on a local farm stays local and grows! British researchers found that money spent at local farms multiplied because the farmer used a local bank, bought seed and supplies locally, advertised in local papers, and paid local employees. These “farm dollars” had twice the economic impact of the same amount of money spent at a chain grocer.  Farmers tend to help and support each other rather than compete. As a result, CSAs often offer produce grown on other farms to their share members as well.

You acquire a taste for new flavors. Broaden your palate by joining a farm! The farm gives you a bit of everything it grows, which often includes a few things you might not have heard of. This is a great way to find your new favorite vegetable! Mine is spicy hot daikon radishes, long as your arm and white as potatoes!

Eat your view! When you join a CSA, you support a farming family. This helps preserve the farmlands, as well. The only way our farmers can afford to pay the taxes on those picturesque views is if we support the farms!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Eating fresh, (ideally) organic vegetables makes your family healthier, and saves you sick time and medical expenses.
The fresher your vegetables, the higher the vitamin content, according to nutritionists.
Where to find a local C.S.A.?
www.LocalHarvest.Com locates farms within a radius of your address that retail directly to the public.  is your source for safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy and other wild edibles.  is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist, artist, and director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.


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