Instead of relying on ingredient labels to learn about what’s in your food, why not find out directly from a farmer? As consumer demand grows for local, organic and natural foods, National Cooperative Grocer Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative representing 110 food co-ops nationwide, suggests consumers get more connected with their food by experiencing the healthful and economic benefits of joining the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement.
CSAs have become increasingly popular since their creation more than 20 years ago. Only 50 CSA programs were available in 1990, but that number has flourished to nearly 1,700 today.
“Most food found on grocery store shelves travels more than 1,500 miles before reaching the plate,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for NCGA.“But, CSAs connect communities with their local food sources and provide an excellent opportunity for individuals to learn more about local farming, eat more healthfully, and invest back into the local economy,” she added. NCGA offers consumers the “ABCs of a CSA”:
A: What is a CSA?
Community supported agriculture is exactly what it sounds like: farmers being supported by their communities. CSAs are made up of groups of people who pledge their support to farms in return for a portion of the season’s harvest. In return for the investment, members receive regular bundles of fresh foods from the farm during harvest months.
B: How to Join
To locate a CSA near you, visit Local Harvest’s CSA locator at http://www.localharvest.org/store/local-csa.jsp or contact your local food co-op for more information.
Typically to join, subscribers buy a share in the spring at their chosen farm. Throughout the growing season, they receive fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, meat, honey, or dairy products based on the farm’s available products. By paying a one-time subscription fee to a local farm (usually $300-600), consumers invest their money back into the local economy and pay no additional fees for an entire growing season’s worth of fresh food.
C: The Bounty
The nourishment received as a CSA member is multi-faceted. Individuals and families benefit from the highest quality, freshest products – often organic – at fair prices.
Additionally, if subscribers want to be increasingly involved, some CSA programs offer opportunities to help shape the farm’s seasonal plans by democratically making decisions about seeds, supplies, labor and other farm priorities. CSAs help break down the barriers between consumers and food sources – making a direct link between food on a dinner plate and the farmer who grew it.