By Rena Unger - Holistic Nutrition Chef
Last week in Honor Thy Farmer - Go Local, we talked about the health benefits of going local and shopping at your farmers market. Are you ready to make a bigger commitment to your health and support our farmers in a more impactful way? Joining a CSA will do just that! Want to know more? Let's start with - What is a CSA?
Community Support Agriculture, or CSA, is a community of individuals, families, friends, roommates or partners who pledge their support to a farm, or coop of farms, by way of a pre-season farm share payment. In exchange, the "community" receives a weekly share of the crops yielded that week. Each CSA sets a different schedule that commonly runs for 10-20 weeks. The average vegetable share contains 5-10 different items each week. CSA shares are available across the country for vegetables, and in many areas you can also find fruit, dairy, animal protein, egg, flower and herbal medicine shares. Most shares begin in May and end during the fall. Winter shares are also available on a weekly or monthly basis.
Here are some valuable benefits of joining a CSA:
*Your pre-payment financially supports the farmers upfront, helping to relieve stress in a mutually beneficial way. This commitment allows the farmers to plan their crops more efficiently. With more strategic planning based on actual commitment, they can expect a successful and plentiful season.
*By cutting out the grocery store middle man, you can build a direct connection with the farmers and receive top-quality at a lower price. Many CSA groups invite the farmers to visit the community at least once a year providing the opportunity to get to know them personally.
*Herbicides, pesticides and insecticides grow with the produce. You cannot wash them off.Â As a CSA member, you can speak directly to the farm group to learn about the practices they use to care for the land and grow the food you will consume.
*The weekly share travels a much shorter distance than food transported across the country or globe, which supports our environment by using less fossil fuel and automotive pollution. A healthy clean environment is always good for our health!
*You get top-quality produce harvested at its peak packed with essential vitamins and minerals, which means increased nutritional benefits for you!
*Each week is a culinary adventure - you never know what you are going to get! Assortment in your diet = a wider variety of vitamins and minerals. This variety creates balance in the body and fosters good overall health. Last summer I received organic bitter melon in my share. This is an incredibly health supportive vegetable that has been linked to reducing blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar, preventing tumors and treating diabetes. Bitter Melon is extremely hard to find, especially organic.
*Many farms invite their community members to visit for a tour and/or help harvest the crops. This is a great way to connect with land, your food, the farmers and fellow community.
I have had the pleasure of participating in few different farm shares in NYC. Last year I moved to Harlem and joined the Harlem Community Farm Share. I am returning this year, as a vegetable, fruit, egg and herbal medicine share member. It is always an incredible and rewarding experience. By joining a CSA you are not only investing in your health, but your community and the farmers who are truly committed to delivering food grown with integrity.Â To find a CSA in your area check out Local Harvest and Just Food.
Rena Unger - Holistic Nutrition Chef
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