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May 8, 2009–Today’s Way: I know I just did a post about purchasing from local farms via produce stands and farmer’s markets, but I felt that a discussion of food co-ops, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), deserved its own post.

In a time when farms and independent farmers are disappearing in increasing numbers every year, Community Supported Agriculture offers a new approach in saving the family farm.  In essence, CSA is a program where you purchase a year or a season of produce from a local farm in advance.  The farmer then provides weekly pickup or dropoff points of your fresh produce for the duration of your pre-agreed period of time.  Each member or subscriber owns a share of the crops produced, and at the same time, ensures that the farmer is able to stay a farmer.  I love this idea, because it creates a direct connection between families and their food, and decreases the dependence of farms upon government subsidies in order to survive.  Also, most CSA farms focus their growing talents upon diversity among crops, with vegetables as well as fruits and some even provide herbs, honey, eggs and dairy—as opposed to the ubiquitous single-crop fields of corn or grain intended for animal feed which have become the primary focus of industrial farming (and subsidies) in our country.  Increasingly, CSAs are offering certified organic produce to their memberships, which is good for the health of our planet as well as its people.

For more information about where to find a local CSA or co-op near you, visit CSAFarms.org, or one of my favorite sites, LocalHarvest.org.

May 6, 2009–Today’s Way: The early warm spring weather is bringing with it our fresh asparagus, wild leeks, spinach, lettuce and radishes, all poking their little green noses up out of the rich, black earth.  I didn’t manage to get the snow peas in yet and the field mice ate my pie pumpkin seeds but then, there’s always next year.  In the meantime, I know that whatever I can’t grow myself, I’ll be able to get at our local orchards and farm stands.  Even if you don’t live in a rural area like we do, farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere, even in the most urban areas.  And the reasons for shopping at your local market instead of the grocery chain are many.

Food grown locally requires less energy for transport and refrigeration, supports your local economy, tastes better and fresher because it was probably picked within only a day or two (if not that very morning), and if you’re lucky enough to have local organic farmers, then you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well.  Our local markets and farm stands offer fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs in season, plus eggs of all colors, dairy and right-from-the-hive honey, not to mention crafts and handmade goods.  But aside from all the practical and environmental benefits of buying local, there’s just something so rewarding about knowing the faces who grew the food on your splendid table.  It creates a sense of community and keeps us connected to food and nature in a very real way.

To find local farms and markets in your area, the best place to go is localharvest.org.

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