Food for thought: Community-supported agriculture

Filed under: Places To Go, Nutrition: Health, In The News, Going Green

We're trying to decide if we should participate in a CSA -- community-supported agriculture -- this summer. While CSAs aren't a new idea, they are gaining in popularity as people begin to pay more attention to how and where the food they eat gets from the farm to their tables.

The basic idea is this: at the beginning of a growing season, you buy into a share of a farm. In exchange, you receive a basket of fresh products weekly. Most farms focus on fruits and vegetables, but some also include meat, eggs, milk, and anything else that can be harvested locally. (One farm in my area also has a shrimp boat, and includes fresh shrimp in their CSA!)

It's a win-win for the farm and the consumer. Farmers get a guarantee that their produce will be sold, so they can focus on what they do well: growing it. As a CSA member, you get food that is fresh and local. Some farms use organic methods, and many encourage visits and provide public education about their farming practices. I'm thinking that a weekly trip to the farm to pick up our bushel would make an excellent family outing.

The one catch, as I see it: you don't generally get any control over what ends up in your basket. If you've got a family of picky eaters, or you aren't willing to try new recipes, that could mean that a bunch of fresh vegetables end up in the trash.

Interested? You can search for a farm in your area at Local Harvest. If you can't find what you're looking for there, try asking around at the local farmer's market or call farms in your area.

Has anyone participated in a CSA before? What has your experience been?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.