I ‘m always trying to inspire people to make good choices, especially when it comes to eating habits. But, in order to motivate others, I know I need to give a good example.
So a couple of weeks ago I joined a CSA, i.e. a Community Sustained Agriculture program.
What is a CSA? It’s a program that allows people to reap the benefits of eating local, seasonal, high-quality fruits and vegetables and at, the same time, ensure that the farmers stay in the business of growing organic food.
It’s a very sensible and innovative concept but, if you think, it’s not very different from what we used to do in the past. It’s ironic how, with our constant need to improve, sometimes we change things that are good just as they are. Until a few decades ago, we used to eat only what was in season and only what was local, simply because we had no other choice. But transportation and refrigeration have changed completely our diets. Add the fact that we love quantity, variety and convenience and so were born the supermarkets, brimming with produce that is in-season year round, often comes from thousands of miles away, and that looks so good that it seems fake. And fake it is: genetically engineered, pumped with fertilizers, dipped in chemical baths and waxed to extend its shelf life. Have you ever noticed that apples do not rot anymore? Well, at least apparently. They actually do, but from the inside out. The artificial waxing prevents them from “breathing”, so that their surface remains firm. As it happens, Mother Nature thought about waxing before humans did and apples do produce their own natural waxy coating. Over time, though, untreated apples wrinkle. Who would buy apples that look like these?
Actually, these apples are still delicious. I bought them eight months ago from a local organic farm and kept them in my cellar. In spite of their appearance, they are still edible. I cut them into big pieces, add water, some raisins, and cook them for twenty minutes. They absorb the water like sponges, plump up and they end up looking exactly like cooked apples bought yesterday. I eat them in the morning with my yoghurt or as a dessert.
After picking up my first delivery from Outer Aisle CSA – what a suggestive name! – and spreading that vegetal bounty over my counter, in my mind I thanked the good people at Outer Aisle for finding the courage to start their distribution network.
CSAs have existed for the last 25 years but where I live there simply wasn’t enough demand to support a CSA. Like all agriculture-related businesses, it’s in fact a risky and not so-profitable venture, but finally the local awareness scale has tipped towards choosing quality vs. quantity, and we can finally afford to have a CSA.
Advantages for farmers:
- Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
- Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
- Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
- Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown.
So find a CSA near you and join it today !
Do it for yourself and do it for the people you love.
Do it to teach your children how to eat right, what is in season and what is not, but also so that they can experience what you experienced as a child when “eating your fruit” meant savoring your neighbor’s juicy peaches or your grandma’s sweet cherries, not drinking a box of juice sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
Do it to pass on to your children good habits that will keep them healthy, not only physically but also mentally and morally because processed food might be cheaper and more gratifying than real food but, like any other shortcut in life, they are going to pay later for it.