With the disastrous state of today's food industry, I am more and more leary of the produce presented to me in the grocery store. The sad part is that many of us don't even stop to think at all about where or how these fruits and vegetables may be grown. With that being said, it's more important than ever now to research the nearest local farm and join their CSA. A Community Shared Agriculture programs allows you to pay for a seasonal share of the farm's harvest in advance. Then each week you visit the farm to pick up your own bountiful supply of produce.
Having lived in the farm landscape region of the garden state for most of my life, I think I've started to take local agriculture for granted. It wasn't until I joined a local CSA, Fernbrook Farm, and started making my own outings to their local farm in Chesterfield, New Jersey, that I truly realized the amazing benefits you can reap. Over the course of this summer I've come to truly appreciate not only the local produce that I use in the kitchen, but the grounding effects of simply making a weekly trip to the farm. Here’s why I think it's important for your mind, body, and soul to get connected to your local agriculture in the summer months!
Support Your Local Community
If you're like me, then you find it satisfying when you opt for a little cafe down the street from your house rather than a crowded chain restaurant, or you buy a dress from a small boutique rather than a store in the mall...catch my drift? The same phenomenon can be applied to your groceries here! Instead of taking the trek to your closest supermarket, why not support the local endeavor? A lot of CSAs are often on the small side too so they tend to try to create a community environment. For example, my CSA has outdoor farm table dinners every week that you can sign up for. I can't think of a better way to mingle with neighbors in the summer nights.
Eat More Veggies
If you pay for your veggies ahead of time, chances are you are not going to skip out on picking them up at the supermarket. When produce is fresh and seasonal, I think people are much more inclined to go for an cucumber rather than a bag of chips when scouring through the kitchen. Plus, I love the fact that the farm may offer a fruit or vegetable that you've never tried cooking with before and you find yourself exploring out of your comfort zone.
Pick Your Own Produce
Here in New Jersey, going to the apple orchard in the fall or a strawberry patch in the summer is a very familiar outing, that probably brings you back to memories of your childhood. I feel the same sensation when I wander into the fields to pick the weekly crops published on the rotating chalkboard at my CSA. Going out in the sun, and picking your own produce is a very grounding activity that allows you to step away from everything and enjoy a little sliver of nature in your week.
Learn A Little About Agriculture
Take the opportunity in the farming environment to not only get your hands dirty, but ask your local farmers about their processes. It's interesting to find out how long it takes to grow tomatoes for example or how this year's weather has affected the crops. Fully embrace this aspect, because there are not many times that you are directly at the source of your food!
More Bang For Your Buck
All CSAs range in pricing but on average are a few hundred dollars for the season. Most people can agree that if they eat lots of produce, it is well worth the money. At a supermarket you will probably spend twice as much money from spring through summer on fresh produce than if you take the leap to give the cash in advance and claim your prizes all season long.
Check out this great resource for finding a CSA nearest to you!