Aaron and I joined our local community supported agriculture (CSA) a couple of months ago. What is a CSA, you ask? Well, it is basically getting your produce (and sometimes meats, cheeses, eggs, and grains are options) straight from the farm, rather than a grocery store. If you are not a gardener or just don't have room for a garden right now, a CSA is a great choice. We are enjoying the farm-fresh vegetables, fruits and grains so tremendously! Our diet is more diverse and well-balanced. It is more nutritous because we are eating produce that has been allowed to ripen, not just on the vine, but on the fully-intact plant and is free of any pesticides, waxes, etc. that is found in the store.
This past weekend, we had the opportunity to visit Crooked Sky Farms, where our produce is grown. It was amazing to see such a lush, beautiful garden-like farm in the middle of the city. In the picture, you can see that the farm is directly next to I-17 (the tan block wall) with downtown Phoenix just on the other side. I must say, Phoenix has never looked so beautiful! At the farm, we were treated to a crop tour, lunch made from the bountiful harvests and unlimited pickings of whatever we wanted! Such a scrumptious surprise!
Benefits of joining a CSA:
Less Pollution - Since the produce is grown locally, it doesn't have to travel as far to get to you.
More Nutrition & Flavor - You will immediately notice increased flavor & aroma when food is allowed to ripen completely before being harvested. We could smell our green onions the second they were removed from the ground! Your food also has more nutrients when it is harvested only once it's ripe.
Less Chemicals & other Additives - Our farms do not use pesiticides or other chemicals (i.e., waxes) to unnaturally enhance the way produce appears. This makes it healthier for you, the environment, and the workers of the farm. Besides, that two-legged carrot still has the same nutrients and flavor as that 'normal' one-legged dude over there! Makes me think of Misfit Toyland..."Nobody wants a Charlie-in-the-box!" And, how is a shiny, waxed apple better than one that goes straight from the tree limb to your mouth? I can tell you, it's not.
Less Expensive - Traditionally, CSAs are cheaper than buying organically at the store. We didn't buy organic before, so it was a little bit of a jump for us at first. Or so we thought. I am now noticing that it is easier to stay within our grocery budget. I think this is due to learning that many parts of the produce that we don't think to eat (or that isn't even available in the store) is actually edible and quite good. For example, beet greens (tops) are a vegetable for dinner one night while the beet roots are used at another meal.
Support Local Farms - Who doesn't want to support family farms? CSAs give them guaranteed business as opposed to selling at farmer's markets each weekend where the unsold produce will basically become compost because it doesn't keep fresh for long after harvesting.
Urban Green - Like I showed above, this farm is located smack-dab in the middle of a city that many people call "The Concrete Jungle." It is surrounded by downtown and warehouses. If the farm wasn't still here, you guessed it, it would probably be concrete.
Learning Experience - Learn what foods can be grown in your area and at what time during the year...you may be surprised. You will also inevitably eat foods you may have never seen or heard of, let alone, eaten. This forces you to try new things. Getting stuck in a rut with your diet is not good for you! Aaron and I have had fun trying out new recipes on foods that we have forgotten the name of by the time we get home from picking them up!
Know Your Farmers - Knowing the person who is growing and handling your food before you get it is such a nice feeling! Here is our Farmer Frank. He is so full of garden & farm wisdom and eager to share that Aaron and I were sponges, soaking up all his knowledge and experience.
To find out more about CSAs in your area, check out Local Harvest.