Ten Reasons to Join a CSA

In honor of the upcoming CSA Day on February 23rd, we're celebrating CSAs, the farmers who host them and the eaters who support them. CSAs (or Community Supported Agriculture) work by having members purchase a share of the upcoming crop at the beginning of the season. Members then receive boxes of produce throughout the growing months. It is one of our favorite methods of direct to consumer food distribution and is a champion of sustainability and corporate resistance in the food system. Below are ten reasons you should drop everything you're doing and find a CSA near you.

  1. Support local farms . Family farms have a tough go. Over the last half-century, the number of farms has decreased, though the size of the farms have grown exponentially, indicating the shift in consolidation of US agriculture. Small farms, like the ones that frequently operate CSAs, work on small profit margins and are especially susceptible to the hazards of a bad growing season. These farms often receive less governmental support than their large-scale counterparts, despite being the most financially insecure. The more support we give local farms, the more it benefits our local economies and the greater knowledge we have of where our food comes from.
  2. Reduce your footprint . Not only is your food traveling less geographic distance, but because the farms are smaller it takes less heavy machinery to plant and harvest. The typical CSA uses almost no packaging besides a box for delivery and the occasionally returnable bag, whereas supermarkets largely use Styrofoam and plastics-based packaging.
  3. Eat seasonally. Let's be honest. Tomatoes are mouthwatering, and resistance seems pathetically useless. And yet, tomatoes are only ripe for about two months of the year in most of the country, and we all know a tomato bought in wintertime is a tragic watered-down event. It feels fantastic to eat what is available seasonally: food tastes better, is naturally ripe and often comes in huge harvests and is thus cheaper. (Drive a few miles outside of the city and you might just find boxes of zucchini on the road with "Take Me" signs.) With our Seasonal Food Guide, eating seasonally is a breeze.
  4. Build your community. Being part of a CSA is a reliable way of meeting and influencing your neighbors and nearby food producers. It's also a great way to meet your farmers and other members during weekly pick-ups. Communities are built around the love of food and nothing brings people together like the joy of growing, cooking and eating. Hey, it's not called Community Supported Agriculture for nothin'.
  5. Try new veggies. When you sign up for a share you have minimal choice in what you get each week. For families, the variety of vegetables that you get can greatly expand how your kids (and you) think about the veggies and what they're excited to try. If it's ripe, it's dinner.
  6. Reduce your meat intake.  It's become habitual in our culture to eat meat at nearly every meal, although our diet needs nowhere near that much. Industrialized meat production is highly resource-intensive and one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, and the treatment of animals in factory farms is inhumane. Having an abundance of vegetables on hand gives you the opportunity to eat fewer animal products. Your share can provide most, if not all, of your meals for the week, especially if you combine with some strategically placed bulk items. If you do want to add meat to your dinner, it's possible that the same farm you get your share from will have some responsibly produced meat, dairy or eggs, which you can feel good about feeding your family.
  7. Learn to cook. Everyone has their standard repertoire of fallback meals. The diversity of vegetables you get in your share will either teach you to modify your fallbacks or branch out and learn new things altogether!
  8. Know what's in your food. People who cook at home have the security of knowing what ingredients are in their meals as it's the only way to avoid excess sodium, sugars and fats, which are added to nearly everything processed and store-bought. The produce that arrive in your share popped right from the earth.
  9. Save money. Although most CSAs ask for their fare in one chunk before the season starts, they mostly end up costing about $20 to $25 per week. Since you're spending less time in supermarkets you're apt to make fewer impulse decisions (which add up quickly). And if you have a short non-CSA list (milk, eggs, cheese, bulk grains, spices perhaps?) you can eat very well for cheap
  10. Forget the brainstorm. The never-ending problems with supermarket shopping are the need to brainstorm meals and a shopping list, and getting stuck in the same old ruts. It's a real luxury to not have to come up with what to buy, but only what to cook. Buy a seasonal cookbook or type up what came in your share in Google and thousands of recipes will pop up. One of them is bound to be perfect for you and whoever graces your table.