How often have you purchased your favourite fruit or vegetable at the grocery store and anticipated a burst of flavour, only to discover that it has no taste at all? So-called “fresh” produce can often travel thousands of kilometres from the farm to your plate. Given that fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients from the moment they are harvested, one has to wonder whether there is anything left to nourish our bodies.
As we’re not all gifted with a green thumb or the space to grow our own edibles, what does one do in order to satisfy the need for tasty, nutrient-rich, local sustenance? One alternative is becoming more accessible than ever: join a Community Shared Agriculture program. In short, this means that throughout the growing season you will receive a weekly bounty of fresh ingredients that you can use to whip together delicious meals.
What is Community Shared Agriculture?
Also known as Community Supported Agriculture and more commonly referred to by its initials, a CSA is an initiative where a group of farmers commit to providing weekly fresh produce for the growing season to a predetermined number of share members. These members generally prepay for their share in two to three installments, thus providing economic security to the growers. “The farm becomes the community's farm and the consumers become co-producers of the food, with the growers and eaters supporting one another while sharing in all the risks and benefits of food production,” says Mark Trealout of the Kawartha Ecological Growers.
Here are five reasons to join a CSA:
1. Taste the difference
The imported produce you find at the supermarket is often grown for uniformity and the ability to travel well over long distances. The primary stipulation for food provided to the consumer through a CSA is flavour. “In my mind there is no more compelling reason to being involved in a CSA than taste,” says Kathleen Mackintosh, founder of the Culinarium in Toronto, Ont. “Locally sourced food tastes better—to both my taste buds and my soul.”
2. Enjoy variety and inspired meals
As a share member, you have access to a diverse selection of food. “Because KEG is made up of over 20 small-scale, sustainable farms, together we produce a large variety of goods,” says Trealout. These farms also grow many heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables that are not readily available in supermarkets. As some share members may never have had the luxury of eating these rare treats, recipes are often provided by farmers and other share members to help with meal planning.