A week into 2010 are you still undecided on your resolution to start the next year? Why not take a step towards the greener side of life and order this week’s groceries from a CSA(community supported agriculture) program. It may be winter and, unless you live in a warm weather climate, finding produce seems a bit out there. Don’t fret though, in warmer cities you can find CSA’s offering limited boxes this time of year and in chilly areas their are produce deliveries that source local and organic goods.
The traditional CSA involves purchasing a share in a farm in the form of a subscription, which can range from a month of weekly deliveries to a year’s worth of goods. By paying the farmers in advance, the purchaser helps offset the overhead costs of farming and develops a personal relationship with the food they are eating, becoming exposed to fresh, local goods and possibly new items. Many CSAs offer their subscribers the option of visiting the farms directly, door-to-door delivery or convenient pick-up locations, and an assorted variety of produce which can include everything from meat to eggs to fresh flowers. By pre-purchasing your produce in advance, you are also locking in your budget for that time period and guaranteeing you’ll be eating food at its peak flavor.
Most traditional CSAs offer subscriptions for the spring, summer and fall, as the winter provides too small a harvest. However, in many cities there are organizations that put together baskets of local, organic produce from a variety of farmers, even in the cold months. Many also offer similar produce sourced outside your local area when the product is not available there. In chilly Chicago, I managed to find a fresh produce delivery organization that supports local, independent farmers and promotes these items in their produce baskets. My first delivery from Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks arrived packed full of eggs and red oak lettuce from Illinois and red onions, potatoes, gold turnips, carrots and celery root from Wisconsin. While I no longer can frequent the farmers market several times a week as I did in Los Angeles, the bounty of crisp produce from my Fresh Picks box made me feel as though I had. Although it’s not a traditional CSA, choosing a produce delivery system like this still supports local, sustainable farmers. And as the seasons change, you can sign up with a more traditional CSA or pick more local produce from these delivery systems.
Many areas also offer the option of a CSA focused on farm raising animals with no hormones in a sustainable manner, such as Chicago area Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. These organizations are more likely to offer year-round subscriptions and can provide various cuts of chicken, beef, and pork, eggs, and possibly milk or cheese. Supplemented with a produce CSA or order from a delivery system, you can almost cut out a trip to the supermarket entirely.
You may not be ready to purchase nine months of produce by subscribing to a CSA, but most organizations offer smaller commitments, and in the end you can save money buying organic produce directly from the farmers than through large grocery stores. If you aren’t ready to go full swing and sign up with a traditional CSA for your New Years resolution, start out small and order a week’s worth of goods from a service that offers produce baskets sourced from local growers. You’ll taste the difference and that will be all you’ll need to make the change, for this year and the rest to come.
Search your area for CSA’s and other fresh produce delivery options at Local Harvest.