On Friday, February 24th we will be celebrating CSA Day with other farms throughout North America! To learn more about CSA Day, visit here. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write about the benefits of joining a CSA. For readers who are veteran share members, this will be a reminder of why you do what you do. For those that have never tried a CSA, I hope to share some reasons that we think it is one of the best ways to buy (and eat) delicious food!
There are many reasons that joining a CSA is beneficial to the farmer. The CSA format of selling produce provides a level of security and commitment for the farmer that can't be found in other avenues, whether they be farmers' markets or wholesale markets. Most CSA shares are paid at a time when the farmer's costs are highest. Advance sales allow the farmer to plan precisely for the inputs and labour that will be required to produce the necessary number of shares. And waste time and resources are kept to a minimum because CSA farmers are planting, harvesting, and delivering only exactly what they know will be required to fulfill the sold CSA shares. But this is not what I want to focus on here. Instead, I want to spend some time talking about the benefits to you, the consumer.
Benefits of Joining a CSA
Short of growing your own food in your backyard, purchasing a CSA share will provide you with the freshest produce possible. If you've never eaten homegrown or CSA harvested food, you may have a hard time believing that this is all that important. But time and again we have new share members who are blown away by the flavour of our vegetables as compared to those they are used to purchasing in the grocery store. Tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots are some of our share members' favourites for this very reason. Since the produce is much fresher, it will also last much longer in your fridge. No more throwing out slimy salad greens after two days!
And it isn't just about flavour; fresh produce means more nutrients! The food you receive in our CSA will almost always have been harvested within 24 hours of delivery. Compared to 'fresh' produce that has been shipped across the country and is sitting in the grocery store, our produce will have much higher nutrient levels [source]. Unlike produce grown for long-distance shipping, we are able to choose varieties that highlight nutrition and taste rather than durability.
As the name suggests, CSAs place a strong emphasis on community. You are not a face-less consumer buying from a unknown vendor. Through newsletters, farm tours, and chats at the weekly pickup, you will have the opportunity to learn about the farmer on a personal level. And many share members enjoy the opportunity to chat with other members while picking up their shares. Personally, I strive to learn a little bit about each of our members over the course of the season. This comraderie with members is something I value greatly but it also creates a level of assurance for share members. They have the opportunity to ask questions about the vegetables and our methods and get lots of ideas of what to do with an unfamiliar vegetable.
Speaking of unfamiliar vegetables, there will be sure to be some unfamiliar vegetables in your share! While this may scare a few people, most share members come to love the variety of vegetables they receive. We have probably all experienced the boredom that can happen from falling into food ruts. Joining a CSA allows you to break out of this rut and try some new-to-you vegetables. Every week we provide recipes and ideas for using the vegetables in your share. From a health perspective, the seasonal variety you receive in a CSA share is an essential part of healthy eating. And if there are just some vegetables you do not want, share members can always make use of our weekly trade-in bin to customize the share. One of the number one pieces of positive feedback we receive from share members is their love of the variety of vegetables we provide over the course of the season. As an avid cook myself, I strive to ensure the every week includes a great complement of vegetables that work well together. Each week I aim to include: 1 salad green, 1 leafy cooking green, 1-2 types of alliums (onions, garlic, leeks), 1-2 root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beets), 3-4 seasonally appropriate vegetables (peas or kohlrabi in spring; beans or tomatoes in summer; winter squash and cabbage in fall, for example), plus herbs.
5. Cost Effective
Joining a CSA share can also be cost-effective. Since CSA shares are purchased in advance of the season, we provide members with an additional 15% of produce as a thank-you for this up-front commitment. For example, this means that a small share pays for $21.25 of produce each week but actually receives $25 of produce each week. And the savings can be even greater when purchased during the early-bird period. On top of these savings, when we have a surplus of a particular item, we often bring it for share members to take at no cost.
6. Environmentally Friendly
The ways in which joining a CSA is environmentally friendly are almost too many to mention. First, we are certified organic which ensures that we treat our soils with the utmost respect and use only allowable substances on our fields. We constantly analyze our methods and inputs to ensure that they meet our environmental standards. All of our produce is unpackaged or minimally packaged and transported in reusable containers to reduce waste. We also encourage our share members to skip the plastic and look for alternative ways to package their produce. All of our produce is delivered to customers within a 65km radius which this means that we can keep our fossil fuel usage to a minimum.
To learn more about our CSA shares be sure to visit the CSA 2017 section of our website. We look forward to growing for you!