10 Reasons to Join CSA

By Shawn Dell Joyce

A new model of agriculture is catching on in our region; Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offers farmers a guaranteed income during these uncertain economic times, and gives supporters part of the bounty of fresh produce.

In CSA, a shopper buys a weekly “share” of a participating farm’s harvest, and in return receives an assortment of locally grown fruits and vegetables. If the glorious taste of that isn’t enough to convince you about the worthiness of CSA, here are 10 more good reasons to join a local participating farm:

–The typical American forkful of food has traveled 1,500 miles from the farm to your mouth. When you join a CSA farm, you avoid all those diesel emissions from transporting the food. Additionally, because the produce hasn’t been commuting for a week to get to you, it’s much fresher and tastier.

–You know what you’re getting when you buy from a local farm. Many conventional farming practices are cruel and unhealthy. When you buy locally, you can see how the animals live. Most of these farms are run by small scale producers who allow animals to roam freely, graze on grasses (which is much healthier for them and us), nurse their young, and live a good life. The farms I buy from treat animals with respect and honor, which is important to me.

–Being a member of a farm helps to build a closer community. When share members come to pick up their weekly box of produce, they swap recipes, chat with the farmer, and discuss the weekly bounty. CSA farms often become gathering places, hosting potluck dinners, special events and even classes. The operators of Phillies Bridge Farm in Gardiner often show movies in their barn for share members.

–You create memories for your children and yourself. Some of my fondest recollections are picking ripe grape tomatoes with my young son on a hot summer day. The tomato plants, laden with deep red fruits, towered over our heads. Some were so ripe they would split in your fingers as you pulled them from the vine. We popped the lovely little split ones right into our mouths, and the flavor burst on our tongues. I’ll never forget the taste of those tomatoes, warm from the sun, dribbling down our chins.

–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 mid-winter. When your family is a member of a farm, you are treated to seasonal produce. Things naturally taste better in their season.

–Get to know your region. Farms are beautiful, and fun to visit. Be a tourist in your hometown. Many of our small farms rely on agri-tourism. Visiting a working farm gives your family a taste of our region’s history and local flavor.

–Money spent at 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 one another rather than compete. As a result, CSA farms often offer produce grown on other farms.

–You acquire a taste for new flavors. Have you ever eaten a sunchoke? How about tossing some fresh purslane into a salad? When you read the word “sorrel” does a lemony flavor come to mind? Broaden your palate by joining a farm. The farm gives you a bit of everything it grows, which often includes a few things you may not have heard of. This is a great way to find your new favorite vegetable. Mine is the spicy hot daikon radish, long as your arm and white as potatoes.

–Preserve open spaces. When you participate in CSA, you support a farming family. This helps preserve the farmlands as well. If you appreciate the view of pumpkins and vines growing in the fields along Route 211 in Wallkill, support Sycamore Farms. 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, 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.

For a list of CSA farms in your area, visit www.LocalHarvest.org or stop into the Wallkill River School of Art in Montgomery for personal recommendations.

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