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CSA – The Healthy Way

September 5, 2007

Yesterday was CSA day, which for me is like Christmas every two weeks (but without the family drama).  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a fabulous program available in many cities around the country. You sign up with your local organic farm, and every one or two weeks (you choose the schedule) you pick up a box full of delicious produce.

During the Winter months, we get butternut squash, chard, turnips, beets, apples, oranges, mandarins, fennel and kale, among other things. In the Summer months, we get delicious heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, mixed salads, zucchini, collard greens, peaches, and green beans, to name but a few items.

The benefits – to your family, the community, and the planet – of joining a CSA program are many. Through your membership, you are supporting local organic agriculture and actively pumping money back into your local economy. Organic farmers face many challenges and hardships in order to bring us quality produce, and this is a great way to thank them. At the same time, because you skip the assorted middlemen and costs involved in bringing produce to a grocery store, you can save a considerable amount of money!

While you’re saving money, you could also be doing your part to save the planet. According to the PA Department of Agriculture, the average vegetable travels nearly 1,500 miles from the farm to the grocery store before you even see it on display. That’s 27 times the mileage of foods purchased from local farms! Join a CSA, and not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you’ll be limiting the amount of money that goes into the pockets of Big Oil. We all like that!

Much shorter travel times mean that your fruits and vegetables will last longer in the fridge. How many times have you been forced to throw away partially-consumed bags of salad because the vegetables spoiled after only two or three days in your fridge? We receive a large amount of produce every two weeks (enough to fill two large crisper drawers and one shelf in the fridge). Many of our veggies have lasted us up to three weeks without special handling or packaging! Try that with supermarket produce.

And speaking of supermarket items, have you noticed how bland and insipid fruits and veggies have gotten in the past years? Many people remember growing up with sweet, juicy strawberries and plump, flavorful tomatoes. Now, all you get are crunchy, dry, flavorless foods with reduced nutritional value, wax coatings, and elevated prices. These fruits and vegetables have been picked while still unripe, resulting in lower nutritional values, and impaired flavor and texture. Taste a strawberry from a CSA or a farmer’s market and I guarantee that you will NEVER buy grocery store produce again!

Now, let’s face it, if you feed your family fruits and vegetables, it’s with their health in mind, right? Well, if you buy your produce in the supermarket, you might be surprised to see these statistics:

Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains, certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington has concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These include: 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus. In addition, organic products had 15.1% less nitrates than their conventional counterparts.

See the complete article here.

And finally, there’s the fun of receiving a bunch of unexpected items, and creating or researching great recipes to bring the flavors to life! Yesterday, it was so hot in San Diego that I decided to make a cold dinner. I combined cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and red onions with a generous squeeze of lemon, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and coarsely-ground pepper. This salad accompanied a mixture of quinoa, lentils, parsley, and radishes. Hummus and pita bread rounded out this well-balanced vegetarian meal. It was ready in less than 30 minutes, and I only dirtied two bowls in the process! Who says healthy cooking has to be laborious and time-consuming???

For more information on your closest CSA or farmer’s market, visit http://www.localharvest.org

Here’s a GREAT six-minute video about choosing organic produce that your entire family will enjoy! Share it with your kids and teach them the way to better health.

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8 comments

  1. Thank you for the tip. I had heard of these before, but never actually knew how to find out about it, as it turns out there’s one close to me every Saturday July-Nov from 10 to 4!

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    That’s GREAT, Jen! Visit them, you won’t regret it!


  2. […] on “In Our Hands”: CSA – The Healthy Way […]


  3. Thanks for the reminder! I’ve been meaning to look into a local co-op and keep forgetting to call. I’ll do it today.

    *****

    I am SO happy to hear that, Robin! You won’t regret it!


  4. Oh, for the love of God, there’s a CSA farm 20 minutes from my house, and they deliver to my town! I could even get a free share if I volunteered to pick up the local shares at the farm and bring ’em here. But I don’t think my car’s big enough.

    Either way, I am *so* doing this next year! I never even thought to investigate this.

    Thanks!

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    That’s great news! You’re going to have so much fun cooking up a storm! I have a ton of great recipes, which I’ll be posting in the near future.


  5. Thanks for this GREAT info! I head no idea either. I live in Nebraska and unfortunately the only close CSA is sold out for this year and I don’t really want to drive 200 mile plus and “blow” all the gas.
    I have some health problems and I am trying to keep a good diet, but there is MUCH to improve!
    I love your new blog already, because I know, it will be a source of knowledge and inspiration. Thank you so much for doing this:) Christine
    P.S. I will put you on my blog roll and I will tell some folks about it.

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    Thank YOU, Christine. Your words have touched me so much! While you wait to sign up with your CSA, you might want to see if any farmer’s markets are available nearby. They’re also a great source of yummy fruits and veggies from local sources. I look forward to sharing this blog with you!!


  6. We actually do have a farmers market here in town and that is a source of good produce. We also have two big health food stores but I rather buy at the source.
    I would love to grow my own veggies. If you look at my blog, you will see that I love to garden, but I don’t have enough sun in the yard and too many critters. I tried a few things, but I haven’t been really lucky with it.
    Thanks for putting me on your blogroll. That’s sweet:)

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    I feel your pain, except I only have a small patio with container plants, and it’s TOO hot. Everything wilts and gets eaten by slugs and inchworms. Well, I figure we can’t do everything, so let the farmers plant and grow, and we’ll buy from them. 🙂


  7. Because I’m single the amount of produce from a CSA share is just way too much for me to use every 2 weeks, but I hear they may offer HALF shares next year. Otherwise I’m going to see if a neighbor wants to go in on half with me. Eating locally is the solution to so many problems, and so much better for us.


  8. I am back from the dead, after spending the last 4 days working on this translation…arrgg!! Tomorrow, I will go out to the health food store and get something GOOD for me to replenish my “batteries” 🙂



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