Wednesday, January 12, 2011
There’s been numerous times that I’ve chosen an orange or apple at the grocery store that looked deceptively beautiful and brightly colored only to bite into a tasteless watery piece of fruit. I think all of us would probably agree that freshly picked produce tastes much better than the kind that was picked before it was ripe and then shipped thousands of miles over several days to a grocery store near you losing much of it’s nutrients. For many the solution to tasteless nutrition-less produce is to grow your own. Fresh picked carrots are sweet when eaten directly from the soil they grew in. In fact most produce that is locally grown has a distinctly different taste than the kind at the store. But what if you don’t have the time or space to grow your own? Then a CSA might be your answer.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a way to partner up with local farmers to not only provide us with fresher and healthier products but it helps the local farmer have a steady stream of income so it can stay afloat. In a nutshell, farmers offer a certain number of “shares” to the public. The “share” or membership guarantees that each person receives a box of fresh produce each week during the growing season. Many farms grow year round while others function mainly from May to October. With some farms, having a membership means that you can have a say in what crops you’d like planted each year. Many not only offer shares in their produce but in eggs, breads, honey, cheeses and flowers.
Bonnie Doble from Pacific Way CSA is a passionate local farmer. She offers eggs, chickens, turkeys and flowers as well as garden fresh produce. “CSA’s are great for trying new foods that aren’t available at supermarkets. Most supermarket produce is bred for longevity not freshness,“ She also adds. “Now is the time to sign up for a share because that way the farmers know how much to grow.”
“CSA members usually get the first and last crops of the season. When we go to the local Farmers Markets we can only take crops that we can pick really fast since we’re pushed for time,” says Michael McKee owner of Willow Grove Gardens, a certified organic farm. “CSA members get a much wider variety of crops to choose from. Also the crops that are grown in smaller numbers, such as pears and apples, are reserved specifically for members.”
If CSA’s aren’t for you then plan to attend a local Farmers Market. Many farmers bring their produce to town and sell it directly to the public. During peak season this means an abundance of locally grown food. Farmers Markets in our area usually run from April or May until October and offer everything from herbs, starter plants for your own garden and other farmed or craftily made goods.
When you purchase local foods, not only are you eliminating the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles but you are helping to support local business and economy. Every dollar goes directly to the farmer and you get the benefit of eating healthy unprocessed foods that taste better.
To find more CSA’s and Farmers Markets near you visit http://www.localharvest.org/