5 Reasons to Become a CSA Member of Your Local Farm

The breakfast menu for this morning: Chioggia beet and red Norland potato hash with two soft-fried eggs seasoned with summer savory.

I have been making these types of delicious, simple dishes for every meal since I became a CSA member of my local farm this season. My meals are made up of about 65% fresh vegetables—roasted, sautéed, or chopped raw—which is more than double what I ate prior.

It may sound like an overstatement, but I assure you it’s not: Becoming a CSA member has changed my eating habits, and in turn, my life. I’m making healthier, more knowledgeable decisions about the food I put in my body and being culinarily inspired along the way.

Cabbage, kale, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more.What is a CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Some local farms offer CSA alongside the other things they do, like selling at farmer’s markets and supplying to restaurants and stores. As a CSA member, you pay for a season’s worth of produce and receive a weekly portion of what the farm is harvesting. It’s a partnership between farmers and customers.

Here are 5 benefits of being a CSA member to inspire you to sign up with your local farm:

A farmer grasps a bundle of fava beans.

Photo courtesy of Tarawyn Waters and Urban Eden Farm.

1. You get to try new things.

While chopping up those Chioggia beets for my hash, I couldn’t help but admire the whimsical white and red stripes circling the root. Vegetables are beautiful and have so much variety to offer. That’s something I never quite noticed before with my previous habit of shopping for grocery store produce. Every trip was the same. I got a couple of zucchinis, a container of spinach,  and a bag of baby carrots. I simply did my duty of feeding myself some veggies, because I knew it was good for me.

Every week now, my farm in Spokane, Urban Eden, hands me a big bag of nutrient-dense produce. I get things like kale, chard, collards, lettuce heads, turnips, onions, garlic, basil, parsley, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, cantaloupe, peppers, etc. Sometimes I’m handed things that I need to hold up and ask, “What is this?” It’s kohlrabi, squash blossoms, garlic scapes, fava beans.

2. It saves you money and time.

By paying for all your produce for the season in one chunk, you essentially are buying in bulk. Inevitably you spend less money than you would be buying vegetables individually at the store. Most farmers are generous, too. So you might get a little extra thrown in if they over-harvest, or you often get deals if you need to buy additional.

Having a single weekly pickup with all your produce already packed together makes eating healthy simple. You don’t waste time wandering grocery store aisles or farmers market stalls (although the latter is quite fun!). 

3. Higher nutrients and better taste!

The closer you eat produce to the time it was harvested, the more nutritious it is. Often, your CSA share was harvested that same day. If you take it home and eat some straight away, you’re getting excellent amounts of nutrients, not to mention flavor! Now picture that lettuce you just bought at the store. It was harvested somewhere else in the country, maybe even the world, then sent to be packaged, then trucked to your grocery store. Several days or even weeks have passed since that was in the soil. 

4. It’s good for the environment.

In the same vein, all that transportation and processing emitted a heck ton of greenhouse gases and pollutants. Plus, do you know if chemicals were used for growing it? Do you know if it’s non-GMO? 

Farmhands and CSA members hold up produce from Urban Eden Farm.

Photo courtesy of Tarawyn Waters and Urban Eden Farm.

If you’re picking up your CSA from your farmer, you can ask them. They’re happy to tell you (maybe even show you) where your produce comes from and how they grow it. Of course, I’m all about s, but just because a small farm is not certified doesn’t mean you should pass them up. Getting certified is quite an expensive and extensive process for a small farm. Many farms use practices and non-GMO seeds, but just can’t afford the official certification.

5. You’re building community relationships.

There is something sacred and wonderful about personally knowing the human who grew your food from when it was a just a bitty seed. You feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. You become a force moving the world and its people toward something better.

When you pick up your CSA, you come face-to-face with the farmers you are supporting. You can chat with farmhands and other CSA members. You can swap recipes and stories. Some farms even let CSA members volunteer on the farm.

Find Your Farm

Here are helpful links that can point you to a farm in your area with a CSA program, so you can get your own healthful bounty! If you can’t find one online, head to your local farmers market and ask around to see who does a CSA.

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