With the growing popularity of both the “eat local” and the organic movements, membership in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cooperatives is on the upswing. Last week’s post discussed six reasons to love a CSA, and this week we’ll cover six tips for choosing a CSA that’s right for you. After all, each CSA has its own “personality” and you’ll need to find one that fits your convictions and lifestyle, or else you may be disappointed.
Following are six factors to consider when choosing your CSA:
1. Volunteer commitments – Traditionally, CSAs have required volunteer commitments from their members. The extent of volunteer hours and obligations will vary widely from CSA to CSA. Common volunteer chores include: working at the farm, driving a delivery truck, unloading the delivery truck, bagging produce, setting up the pick-up location, and working during share pick-up hours.
2. Veggie, Ovo-lacto-vegetarian, or Carnivore? – Some CSAs offer organic meat, whereas others are completely vegetarian or ovo-lacto-vegetarian, meaning you may be able to get milk, eggs, or cheese along with your vegetarian share.
3. Local / Organic Commitment – It used to be that organic implicitly meant local, but that’s no longer the case. Generally speaking, most CSAs will have a preference for local, organic food. But what happens in the dead of winter? Unless you live in a warm climate, you’ll likely face one of two scenarios: either your CSA will ship in organic produce from warmer climes, or you’ll be subsisting on a lot of root vegetables. Some members may welcome the addition of organic oranges, while others will decry the fossil fuels used to ship them to your local CSA.
4. Communications – Leveraging communications tools such as listservs and blogs can make all the difference in the community spirit of a CSA. Is there a way for members to connect to discuss issues such as switching volunteer hours, selling shares during vacation weeks, or recipes for the obscure veggies in your latest share?
5. Delivery and/or Pick-up Hours – If you’re habitually the last person to pick up your share, you may find the pickings are slim. What are your CSA’s pick-up hours and how do they regulate the food distribution?
6. Farm Visits – Can you visit the farms that grow your food? For some members, this is the essence of joining a CSA.
When choosing a CSA, consider what’s most important to you. Typically, you’ll be dealing with a CSA for about six months, so a little upfront research will go a long way toward ensuring a happy experience.
What’s been your experience with CSAs? Please leave a comment and share!
Copyright 2008 OrganicManiaFiled under CSAs, Food, Organics, Where to Buy Organics | Wordpress Comments (2) |
Some Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups have a reputation for providing their members with little more than an overabundance of kale, chard, and root vegetables with a few sprigs of parsley thrown in. CSAs, as you may know, are collectives formed to purchase a farmer’s or a group of farmers’ crops. Members share in the bounty (or the loss) and the farmers are guaranteed a set price for their crops.
While it’s true that through my recent CSA experience, I have learned I prefer chard to kale, the recent growth in the “buy local” movement and the growing popularity of CSAs means that if you join one, you’re likely to enjoy a far broader range of foods than in years past.
Following are six reasons to love a CSA (Part 1 of 2 Posts on CSAs)
1. Variety – It’s easy to fall into a rut at the market, picking the same familiar veggies and fruits every week. Through a CSA, you may be exposed to celeriac, black radish, salsify, purple top turnips, passionfruit, persimmon, kabocha squash, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet white turnips, and Big “Florida-type” avocados, in addition to those CSA stand-bys, chard and kale! Some CSAs also provide fantastic farm fresh cheese and wonderful varieties of home-baked bread.
2. Commitment – Since you are required to pre-pay for your CSA membership, you’ll likely make it a point to get your CSA share every week. C’mon, admit it. How many times have you resorted to processed or convenience food because you simply hadn’t made it to the market for something fresh?
3. Inspiration – With the abundance of new foods to experiment with, odds are you’ll have to dust off that old cookbook and take a look at some recipes for the unfamiliar produce in your share. Cooking and discovering new recipes are all part of the CSA adventure! (Check out this blog with recipes matched to shares from the Spiritual Food for the New Millenium CSA).
4. Family Learning – My kindergartner is learning about where food really comes from, how delicious fresh organic and biodynamic food tastes, and even how to carefully measure produce on the scales. As part of our volunteer commitment to our CSA, he’s also learned how to bag flax seeds and practiced counting and sorting more than 100 bags.
5. Health – Between the variety of food, the desire to cook more healthy meals at home, and the forcing function of receiving a pre-paid weekly CSA share, odds are your regular diet will become much healthier.
6. Fun – I love visiting the CSA with my children. It is a fun, relaxed escape from the surrounding urban area.
And of course, the most important reason to join a CSA is to help the environment by supporting local, organic and biodynamic farmers.
Please check out this post explaining what’s behind the biodynamic food in some CSAs, and come back next Monday for the second part in this series, which will discuss how to choose a CSA that’s right for you.
To find a CSA near you, visit LocalHarvest.org.
Copyright 2008 OrganicManiaFiled under Biodynamic food, CSAs, Food, Parenting, Tips, Vegan, Where to Buy Organics | Wordpress Comments (8) |
There’s a secret I’ve been keeping. It’s my family’s recent devotion to biodynamic food. The reason I haven’t mentioned this before? I thought I didn’t understand biodynamics well enough to blog about it.
Yet after hearing someone ask if biodynamics were “bad for you,” I realized an introduction was needed to this amazing yet uncommon food. There is a sense of mystery about biodynamics because biodynamics is shrouded in spiritual mystique. In fact, the biodynamic food my family eats is called “Biodynamic: Spiritual Food for the New Millennium.”
So no, biodynamics is not bad for you. On the contrary. I wish everyone could benefit from biodynamic food, which raw and living food expert Sharon Greenspan of Wild Success™ has dubbed “The New Organic.” While biodynamics pre-dates the organic movement by two decades, to most people, the concept of biodynamics is new. Biodynamic food harkens back to an earlier era in the organic food industry, a time before it was an industry, before there was organic processed food and before organic was anything other than local food.
For six years, I sampled incredibly delicious biodynamic fruits when my yoga teacher would leave them out as snacks at her Shanti Yoga ashram. Biodynamic food is simply the freshest, best tasting food available. And its most ardent devotees claim it is also the most nutritious, “rich in vitamins, minerals and life-force or ‘prana,’ ” according to Victor Landa of the Spiritual Food for the New Millenium organic and biodynamic CSA.
I risk sounding strange by admitting this, but I swear that the first few times I ate biodynamic food, I felt a rush, like my blood vessels were opening up or something incredible was going on in my body as it received this incredibly pure, wholesome food. When I asked my yoga teacher about what made biodynamics so special and how it differed from the organic food I could pick up at the supermarket, she said, “This is better than organic. It has spiritual forces, the forces of life.”
Tennessee’s “Barefoot Farmer” explains on his website that Steiner believed “that the use of artificial fertilizers [would] have a detrimental effect on our soils and eventually our human spiritual development.” The Spiritual Food CSA’s website notes “spiritual food is about more than avoiding chemicals. Growers seek to improve the health and vitality of soil, plants and animals through working with the health-bearing forces of nature on the principle that if the soil is healthy, chemicals are not needed and seeds will bring forth plants that are true to their own unique nature and have more life-giving vitality to offer.” But biodynamics is about more than avoiding the use of chemicals – it’s about tapping into the cycles of the sun and moon to foster nature’s bounty. As the Spiritual Food website explains, “Steiner farmers avoid chemicals, hormones, and non-therapeutic antibiotics. Instead, they seek to understand how living things behave, how they interact, and the spirits that underlie them. They use the cycles of the moon and planets to guide their planting schedules, and treat their soil and seeds with preparations made from organic plant and animal elements, developed by Steiner and his compatriots.”
Despite skepticism about what my husband calls “these fruity nutty granola elements,” we took the plunge and joined the ashram’s biodynamic CSA, which provides us with a potluck assortment of biodynamic and regular organic food every week. As we’ve marveled at the incredible flavors of the persimmons, eggs, bread, squash, citrus, apples, and other wonderful grains, vegetables, and fruits, my husband has tried to figure out what it is that makes biodynamic food so special. Finally, he surmised that maybe it’s because the spiritual farmers pay so much attention to the growing process, it is nearly perfect. When I told my yoga teacher about his conclusion, she laughed in her quiet way, and said, “That’s right!”
Although one of the goals of the biodynamic movement is to make the food “available to as many people as possible” because “biodynamic food nourishes the body and the spirit,” unfortunately it’s simply not possible to feed everyone this way because there are so few biodynamic farms. Even in our CSA, which is a leader in the biodynamic movement, we can’t expect all of our CSA shares to be biodynamic. Instead, we enjoy healthy, local organic food as well.
If your family is unable to participate in a biodynamic CSA, you can still eat healthier this year by buying local and organic food. I’ve blogged about the prices and availability of organic food at places like Giant, Safeway, Target, WalMart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Balduccis, local organic markets and co-ops, and new regional organic chains like Roots. Now, thanks to the Parent Bloggers Network, I’ve learned that the Kroger chain offers organic foods as well. This means that no matter where you live in the US, you should have access to organic food. And that’s good news for Mother Earth and mothers everywhere.
Links to biodynamic farmers and resources:
San Diego County’s LaVigne Farms (wonderful persimmons and other fruit!)
Nebraska’s Massena Farm (amazing oats and flax seed and other grains!)
Pennsylvania’s Kimberton Hills (best bread and more!)
New York’s Threshold Farms (amazing apples and more!)
Indiana’s Fragrant Farms (fragrant flowers and more!)
Local Harvest (List of CSAs, including biodynamic CSAs nationwide)
Copyright 2008, OrganicmaniaFiled under Biodynamic food, CSAs, Food, Organics, Where to Buy Organics | Wordpress Comments (7) |