What is a CSA, you ask? CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”. This fancy term really just means that you are buying your veggies directly from a local farm. Each farm is set up differently but most of them require you to make a monthly or quarterly pledge (you pay for your veggies up front) so that they can predict how much to plant for the next season. Some of them will deliver to your house or you can pick up your weekly box at a convenient location in your neighborhood. Prices vary, but small boxes are generally about $30 and large boxes can be around $40, depending on where you live and whether or not they carry an “organic” certification. A love purchasing my veggies this way for a number of reasons and here are 8 of them:
1. My veggies have more nutrients!
Produce found in the supermarket is often purchased from other states or even countries that have larger farms and cheaper prices. This is great for the store that is looking to turn a profit but not great for us. When fruits and vegetables are picked, vitamins like A, E, C, and some B vitamins begin to deteriorate. This alien produce often sits on a truck for weeks and by the time it makes it to the shelves, it could be as long as month since it was picked. This is not the case with a CSA. When you buy from your local farmer, you are getting veggies that have been picked that week and, therefore, have WAY more nutrients than their supermarket counterparts.
2. It’s better for the environment
Even though I live in California where citrus grows aplenty, it’s not uncommon to see oranges from Florida or even Brazil in my local markets. That means my oranges traveled thousands of miles before they made it to my counter top. That’s a big carbon foot print! Purchasing from a CSA or local farm reduces food miles, which in turn, reduces carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels.
3. It supports the local community
Pledging to a CSA keeps my money in the community rather than supporting a big chain supermarket. The local food movement has really taken off, yet many people take it for granted. What few realize is that the small farms in our country are struggling. Just last year, one of the most popular local farms in San Diego closed down. Suzie’s Farm had a thriving CSA and supplied produce to many of the Farm-to-table restaurants in the city. But it was not enough and in June of 2017 they announced that it was time to let go of their passion, their farm. When I buy from a local farm, I feel better knowing that I am supporting a small business, a family in my own community. I know that they love what they do. I taste it in the food and I am happy to pay a few pennies more to a family that may take that money and pay it forward in my little neck of the woods.
4. I don’t have to think about it!
Buying from a CSA means you don’t get to pick your veggies for the week. You get what you get. However, this takes some of the tedious planning out of the equation. I generally get a couple different types of lettuce, some hearty side dish veggies, fruits, and herbs. I also subscribe to ButcherBox, where I receive a months worth of grass fed, pasture raised, antibiotic free meats. So I pick a veggie and a meat and Voila! Dinner is done!
I love juicing! It is the best morning pick me up. I start my day with 4-5 veggies and a whole lotta nutrients! CSAs are generally heavy on the lettuce and if you don’t love salads, like me, then pushing those greens through your juicer is a nice alternative. If you’re a regular juicer, you may need to buy more veggies with your weekly trip to the store, but chances are, you already knew that ;).
6. I eat seasonally
We are spoiled in this country! We have an abundance of different types of fruits and veggies to pick from (among other things) in the stores, but they are not without a cost. Just yesterday, I saw a pile of green artichokes as I entered the store and, giving into temptation, I bought a couple, even though I know they aren’t in season until next month. And while I will still enjoy them as a nice treat, I know that they won’t be as good now as they will be in April or May, when they are at their peak. It’s nice to have options but pledging a CSA means I am going to get the best tasting veggies with the most nutrients because those veggies are in season.
7. I save money!
Organic produce ain’t cheap but if you buy it in a CSA box it can be quite affordable. It’s not uncommon for me to spend over $200 a week on groceries for my family of 4. However, now that I subscribe to a CSA and ButcherBox, my grocery bill has actually gone down. Of course, these savings are dependent on actually using these ingredients and not wasting them. My CSA works out to be $43 per week with the delivery fee. ButcherBox is $32.25 per week. That makes my produce and meats only $75.25 a week! Of course, I still have to make it to the store to buy extra produce like bananas and other staples and while this varies from week to week, I am still spending under that $200 mark.
I had never even heard of Kohlrabi until it showed up in my CSA a couple years ago. A knobby, green bulb like vegetable, I had no idea what the foreign thing was staring back at me from it’s crib of lettuce and other produce. Luckily, my CSA always arrived with recipe suggestions so I did as instructed and after slicing it up, roasted it in the oven. YUM! Kohlrabi has a mild flavor that can only be described as the love child of broccoli, cabbage, and jicama. It can be eaten raw, roasted, steamed, or shaved into a slaw. In addition to all the vitamins and minerals it offers, Kohlrabi can aid in weight loss, improve digestion, and help regulate blood pressure. Watch for this beautiful bulb in the spring and let me know what you think!
So there you have it! Eight reasons why I LOVE my CSA! Though I realize that this way of eating veggies isn’t for everyone, I hope I have shown you how advantageous joining a CSA can be. Have you or do you pledge to a CSA? I love your comments. Feel free to share your experiences, below.
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I’m Amberly, a Clinical & Integrative Nutritionist. I help women who’ve had cancer go from just “surviving” to THRIVING by amping up their nutrition, reducing stress, and teaching them how to be in the present moment.
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