Consume Smarter: Why sign up for a CSA?

Dorothy Li convinces us all why CSAs are the way to go.

Initially, I signed up to participate in the NYU CSA for what I saw as great consumer advantages – a regular supply of vegetables that were fresher and less expensive than those at conventional grocery stores.

A CSA (community supported agriculture) is a membership with a local farm in which members purchase a share of vegetables (and sometimes fruits, eggs, fish or local products) throughout a growing season. Farmers deliver shares directly from their farm to a convenient neighborhood drop-off location on a regular basis (i.e. weekly, bi-weekly) for members to then pick-up. But this is more than just a producer-consumer transaction. Through this community participation, I have come to realize that there are a multitude of other benefits CSA’s bring – not just to the consumer, but also to the community and the environment.

For the individual: A CSA allows individuals to become closer to their food. Aside from going to a farm yourself, this is the way to get the freshest vegetables. CSA members learn where produce comes from and how it is grown, and they can connect directly with the farmers. An understanding of food develops an appreciation for your food. Members receive a variety of vegetables that they may not normally choose to purchase or even see at a conventional grocery store. On top of eating organic produce, one can learn how to cook a range of new dishes as part of a healthy diet.

For the community: CSA’s are primarily organized and run by volunteers. The common mission of a CSA connects community members with one another.  It also brings farmers into the community and builds strong relationships between farmer and customer year after year. Furthermore, CSA’s build community support of local farms which boosts the local economy. Since members pay their share upfront at the beginning of the season, the farmers are ensured that there is demand for their supply. They can then properly plan their crops for the entire growing season and have the means to support the anticipated costs. This allows farmers to focus less on the market for produce and more on the growing of crops.

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For the environment: CSA farms support sustainable growing practices. Farmers can grow seasonal produce because they have the flexibility of growing crops that suit the local environment, growing conditions and potential variations in weather, rather than being subject to growing only what is in demand. Furthermore, the produce travels shorter distances from farm to table with no middleman, reducing the amount of used energy and emissions. Because farmers grow and harvest for a set number of shares, there is no surplus of produce that goes to waste in the end.

Participation in community food and agriculture is a valuable and educative opportunity. The NYU CSA and the Urban Agriculture class have highlighted for me the integral role food plays in the community, environment, health, nutrition, and social justice. As we learn the basics of seed propagation, crop planning, and sowing throughout this course, I believe we will all grow a stronger appreciation for the work, effort, and care that goes into our food systems.

Find a CSA in your area here.

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