Photo: Steel Pony Farm
We all need to eat. But not everyone is a farmer or a gardener.
I often think of this and give thanks to farmers whenever I buy produce at a grocery store. I think about the long hours and dedication it takes to successfully grow a high volume of food, and how this is often taken for granted by so many people. Growing organic food seems tougher to do on a mass scale. Many would agree that organic produce tastes better than conventional food, and many would argue that it’s better for you too.
But let’s be real. Planning an organic vegetable garden can be time-consuming, especially if you plan to grow a large variety of food. Last summer I had plans that took me away from my city, and I realized I could not grow a garden since I wouldn’t be around to tend to it. This frustrated me. I wanted yummy fresh organic produce, but I lacked the time and dedication to grow it.
That’s when I Googled “CSA” in my city and suddenly my frustration and worries went away. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Many farmers offer CSA boxes of fresh food to paying customers each week, or every other week. Essentially, you pay the farmer for your share of produce, they grow it, and you pick it up (or have it delivered, depending on the farm) and enjoy the produce. It’s honestly as simple as that. No worrying about pruning plants or watering, no worrying about anything really! I should mention here that if there is terrible weather and the crops don’t grow or they become damaged, everyone is affected. This makes sense though, doesn’t it?
Last year I opted for a CSA food box from Steel Pony Farm in Red Deer, Alberta. I had met the farmer Mike Kozlowski before and worked with his mom, so it felt like the natural farm to support. I placed a bi-weekly food box order, selected my pick up day/time, and carried along with life.
Steel Pony Farm uses a web-system called “Harvie” to alert you of an upcoming pickup and allowed me to view the produce coming my way and even allowed me to swap out items if I wanted. I don’t know if all CSAs use Harvie, but they should! It made my whole experience absolutely amazing because I could personalize the boxes. This meant I could assess the produce I already had at home and swap out anything I already had or simply didn’t want. It also meant I could double up on the produce I absolutely love.
Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Support a Local CSA Food Box Program:
- Variety of Food – A CSA food box is a great way to try produce you might see in a grocery store but have no clue how to use, so you never buy it. For example, you might be familiar with butternut squash but have never tried spaghetti or pattypan squash. A CSA food box encourages you to try new food without being too unfamiliar.
- Eat Well – Getting your daily amount of fresh vegetables has never been so easy. Seriously! It’s hard to not eat well when you have a variety of fresh organic produce at your fingertips!
- Reliability – You can rest assure that fresh organic produce will make its way to your kitchen and tummy every week! Now, this does change if the weather is completely unkind, but not to worry. Farmers make it work, even with some bad weather.
- Seasonal Eating – A CSA food box lets you get back into nature’s natural food seasons by enjoying food that grows at certain times of the year. For example, I fell in love with garlic scapes and when I realized they would only be available for so many weeks, I found a deeper appreciation for them.
- Support Local Community – Investing in a CSA food box is an investment in your community. It’s well known that money spent at local businesses will be reinvested back into the community, so supporting local farmers makes complete sense if you love your community. And your neighbours. We all want each other to thrive, don’t we?
- Less CO2 Emissions – Purchasing food from local growers lessens the energy needed to transport and refrigerate produce across long distances.
- No Chemicals – While each farmer may choose to grow their crops differently, the majority of produce in CSA food boxes are grown without chemical-ridden pesticides, fertilizers, etc. This is good for the soil, lessens groundwater pollution, and contributes to fantastic tasting food!
- Personal Validation – When you support a CSA food box, you support the people growing the food. You validate their efforts, passions, and contributions to the world. You give them reasons to continue following their dreams, and I think that’s a beautiful thing…
- Cost Effective – Eating well does not cost more. In fact, I think I saved money by supporting a CSA. Knowing you have fresh produce on hand or coming to you soon will keep you from purchasing an excessive amount at a grocery store, which lessens food waste. My bi-weekly box was $37.50 which provided me with more than enough produce to last me two weeks. I was spending roughly $60/week on produce and a few non-produce staples (such as almond milk, rice, etc.) and was delighted to see a reduction in food spending.
- It Tastes Better – It does. Local produce tastes better than conventional produce found at major grocery stores. End of story!
Have you purchased a CSA food box before? If so, tell me about your experience in the comments section below. I love learning about other people’s experiences! If you’re interested in a weekly or bi-weekly food box, be sure to look up local growers in your area and see what boxes they have available. Enjoy!