Going Green Spotlight on
Community Supported Agriculture

Fall is my favorite season, and this year I have found yet another reason to love autumn…my CSA farm share!

CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a trend that is catching on all over the country. Individuals sign up to support a local farm by buying a "share" or "1/2 share" of produce, which is delivered or picked up throughout the growing season. By getting support (both financial and spiritual) up front, the farmers can rest assured knowing that they are sharing the risk and benefits of farming with a community.

Farm shares supply cash flow to farmers during the late winter when they need to buy seeds and supplies, and also gets them better prices for their crops because they are selling directly to individuals. And by signing up for a farm share, individuals get the benefits of fresh, locally grown, delicious fruits and vegetables, and the comfort and joy that comes from knowing where your food is grown and by who. It's an amazing experience.

Each week, from mid June to October, I have enjoyed picking up my share of produce at a bakery in my neighborhood where Stillman's Farm delivers. I get to go through the line, hand picking my "share" of whatever's ripe… potatoes, apples, kale, peppers, eggplant...you never know what new surprises there will be. Last week I discovered a delicious new kind of squash that I would never have tried on my own. And best of all, I can talk to the very farmers who grew the food. They tell me how the rain has effected the beets or how best to cook the turnips. And they give me a preview of what is ripening back at the farm for next week.

Getting involved with Community Supported Agriculture is helpful to the environment in many ways. For one thing, many of the farms use green farming practices. They use few or no chemicals, participate in Integrated Pest Management programs, and stay away from genetically modified organisms (GMO). Also, because the farms are local, your food does not travel great distances (which uses lots of gas and gives produce time to lose flavor).

My farm share makes me feel more connected to the earth, and I also feel good knowing that I am contributing to a farm that donates over 22,000 pounds of produce to area food banks and shelters every year.

I encourage you to consider joining a CSA for next year. Most farms already have sign-ups for the 2009 season. I suggest going with a well-established CSA to ensure a good experience. You can find a list of local CSAs at http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml#find, or ask around to see which ones your friends have tried.

Enjoy your veggies!