Over the last few years, farm shares, or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), have become very popular and are now pretty easy to find. They’re kind of a hip thing to do now – for good reasons!
A quick explanation of what a farm share is. Basically, the way a farm share or CSA works is that you pay a fee to join. That fee supports the farm and you receive shares of the crops they grow throughout the growing season. For some CSAs, members go right to the farm to pick up their shares weekly. For others, you can choose from several convenient pickup locations, and for others still, there may be home delivery options. So, why should you buy a farm share?
It is really, really hard to be a farmer in New England.
With the short growing season, the wildly variable weather, the high cost of living, and other factors, it is really hard farming in New England. CSAs are a great way to support local farmers and help them make a living. They can also help farmers make money from any excess crops they have or the parts of produce that are still edible and delicious, but aren’t really purchased by stores (like beet greens and celery tops), which brings me to reason #2….
You’ll waste less
Some of what you’ll get as part of your farm share are parts of the plants that aren’t sold in stores or are overlooked in stores, like broccoli leaves and beet greens. These are perfectly edible and delicious but are discarded most of the time. Receiving these in your farm share means they don’t go in the garbage.
You’ll get to try new produce
Many of the fruits and vegetables you’ll receive as part of your farm share you simply can’t find in the grocery store so they’re a great way to get some more variety into your diet. Spigarello? Candy cane beets? Hakurei turnips? See what you’re missing?! Not sure what something is or how to use it? Ask your farmer or a fellow CSA member! They are usually thrilled to share information and recipes. Or, you know, Google it.
You might spend less
Depending on where you do your grocery shopping, you will most likely find that a farm share costs you less for produce than you’d spend at the store, especially considering the quantity and variety you receive.
You could make new friends
Many CSAs have their own little community of sorts – meeting people at the pick-up points, connecting in Facebook groups, getting together for meetings or events. They can be a great way to meet new people, learn something new, and swap recipes.
The produce is fresher and more nutritious than what you’d get at the grocery store
The produce you buy at the grocery store is, by and large, picked before it is fully ripe and then shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to make it to your store. Because of this, these fruits and veggies have not developed as much nutrition as ripe plants and then many of their nutrients are destroyed in transit and processing. Produce from CSAs is typically picked that morning or the day before and is picked at its ripe point. It also suffers less nutrient destruction because it’s not being processed and shipped miles and miles to get to you.
You know where your food comes from and how it was grown
Wait. Was this romaine part of that recall? Is it from Arizona or California? No mysteries with a CSA. You know exactly how and where your food was grown and harvested. You can even go see it for yourself typically!
It’s more eco-friendly
Getting your produce locally means there is less of a toll on the environment from transporting and refrigerating produce over long distances. Small, independent farms are also more responsible for the land they use than factory farms by using less pesticides and cycling the land -their livelihood depends on it!
Spring is practically here and now is the time to sign up for a local farm share and make sure that you’re getting loads of beautiful, fresh fruits and veggies during the warmer months this year. So what are you waiting for?