Do you know who picked that apple you ate for a snack? Where it was grown? When it was picked, or even how it got to the grocery store? If your answer is no, don’t worry! This post is all about knowing who grows our food (the real MVPs): FARMERS and how you can get the inside scoop on where your food comes from.
My interest in food & wellness peaks each summer when our CSA (community shared agriculture) begins. Each Monday (for the past 7 summers) from May- September I head to our local farm to pick up our share of fresh veggies, herbs and flowers (our share also includes weekly U-Pick options such as beans, tomatoes and berries).
If you are interested in learning more about what a CSA entails- you’re in luck! Below I’ve answered some FAQ and interviewed my farmer/ CSA director Nancy Grove (answers in italics).
*Photos included were taken at Old Path Farm in Sauquoit, NY*
How does it help the farmers?
This helps farmers have a more steady and guaranteed income even when the weather is rough. Additionally, farms pay most of their expenses in the winter and early spring, purchasing seeds, supplies and equipment, and normally they must then wait until the summer or fall to receive income to pay for those expenses. For this reason, farms often rely on loans with accruing interest. Many farms go out of business due to the above financial pressures. In the CSA model, the customers pay the farmer at the time when the farmer needs the money most.
How does it benefit me?
First and foremost, they receive extremely fresh and seasonal produce. In most CSA situations, the customers receive a significant discount on the value of the farm products over usual market value. In many CSA situations, customers get to know their farmers and grow a trusting relationship with them, thereby excluding the need for a third party certifying agency (i.e. government or NGO-based organic certification). In many CSAs, customers come to the farm weekly and become intimate with where their food is coming from. They witness and are even involved in the process of growing food.
Over the 13 years we have been practicing the CSA model, we have found that every year, no matter how difficult the weather conditions, we are able to provide every customer with more than their money’s worth of food. What has varied year to year is which vegetables are most abundant. Sometimes there is a very challenging spring, and the yield starts off slow, but later in the summer and fall, other vegetables have come to thrive so we can make up for the rough start.
We value farmer’s markets, but truth is, on a rainy day or a holiday, customers don’t come. CSA model means that our hard work of growing vegetables never goes to waste. The customers have pre-paid, so they always show up!
How can I find a CSA near me?
localharvest.com – Free website that analyzes your location and provides a list of CSAs, farms, farmer’s markets, co-ops, u-pick, and wholesalers near you!
If all else fails you can google “CSA near me” – guaranteed results.
*I also asked some questions that interested me about the farming process and Nancy’s thoughts on fresh, local produce.
Some extra reads here:
What’s so great about organic farms?
Ideally, organic farms are striving to mimic the natural surrounding ecosystem as much as possible. And they are seeking farming practices which do not poison the water, soil, air, plants, animals and humans who exist around their farm. Non organic farms spray upon our food chemicals which are known to be toxic and cancer-causing. They are the reason that breast milk in the United States contains herbicides.
What additional things are added to the growing process to benefit the plants?
We spray and spread a long list of nutrients on the soil and plants. All of these nutrients are derived from nature and are not man-made. They include enzymes, beneficial bacteria and essential oils. Another mainstay are rock minerals such as cobalt, zinc, copper, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, magnesium, manganese, etc. The reason that we use these trace minerals is both because they lead to optimum health for the plants and because when we ingest the produce, we are eating “nutrient dense-food” which brings optimum health to the consumers. When plants have all the nutrients they need, they do not succumb to insect or disease problems. Likewise, when humans have all the nutrients they need they are not as susceptible to diseases and bodily dis-functions.
What happens to the farm/ growing process in the winter?
We have time off in the winter to enjoy the glories of Upstate New York, spend time with our families and pursue our other interests. The garden has been planted to a crop that protects and nourishes the soil for the dormant winter months. Some farms continue growing in greenhouses during the winter, but we choose to rely on storage vegetables for our own consumption. Our winter farm tasks include the office work of taxes, accounting, planning, ordering and marketing.
Why do you think eating locally and seasonally is beneficial to us and to the environment?
We benefit from eating food that is fresh. Locally marketed food is cultivated in a way that is most delicious and nutritious. Food that is intended to travel over 1000 miles to your plate has been designed to be packaged and to survive weeks of travel and storage in the grocer. This is why produce in the grocery store does not taste good. If you have ever tasted garden-fresh produce, then you know what I am talking about.
As for the ‘environment’- we are less likely to allow the poisoning of rivers, when the river is running through our own community and is our own water source. Farms that are out of sight and mind, get away with horrendous amounts of pollution. The same is true of farm labor. We are less likely to want to exploit workers who live in our community and who are our friends, neighbors and relatives.
*If you have any other questions about CSA, farming, or how you can get involved feel free to contact me! (contact info located in the About section)