When it comes to community supported agriculture, the dead of winter can be the most important time of all. Why is that? Because that's when you need to sign up for the next season's share! If you wait for summer or even spring to reserve a weekly share of vegetables, fruit, herbs, or flowers from one of the many local farmers who offer CSA shares, it will be too late.
Most farmers who offer CSA shares purchase their seed stock early in the year, well before the first signs of spring. That way they can plan their field rotations, growing schedule and start sowing their seeds indoors to get a head start on the growing season. Some might say their season is half over before you even pick up your first CSA share, because that's how long your farmer has been planning, prepping fields, seed-starting, planting, mulching, weeding and ... the list goes on and on, but you get the picture.
That's no problem, you might say, there's always the farmers markets. Farmers markets are a wonderful opportunity to buy the best of local food and flavors, but given the average family's busy lifestyle, it can sometimes be hard to carve out an hour weekly to stop to find and buy fresh produce. With a CSA share, you pick up your share on a regular schedule that can be as quick and routine as a five-minute stop on your way home from work. Your share will often include a vegetable or variety you've never tried before, which can lead to whole new food horizon. I never thought my teenagers would love kale chips as much as fresh-popped popcorn, but we all have a new favorite snack now, thanks to our local farmer.
And while local supermarket produce can be more convenient and lower-priced, the old adage of "You get what you pay for" is especially true here. The nutritional value for most fruits and vegetables begins to decline as soon as it's picked, especially for those foods picked before their prime so they can ripen as they are shipped to market. And while you may pay less for that nectarine from Chile than one from Chelmsford, how many fossil fuels did it take to ship that nectarine to your grocer? Not to mention you don't know what pesticides were used in Chile, or how contaminated the water might have been.
Nope, give me local, fresh fruit and vegetables anytime. Let's skip the excessive pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified seed and irradiated foods. Support your local neighbors who farm for a living, working long, hard, backbreaking, dirt- and sweat-filled days to give you the best food they possibly can. Sign up for your local CSA share today. For information, visit www.localharvest.org.
Don't forget, "no farms, no food."