Monday, May 19, 2014

Join a CSA to Increase Your Veggie Intake, Food Knowledge, and Your Cooking Repertoire!

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It is the beginning of summer and most CSA’s have just begun. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”, where consumers can buy a “share” from a farm and enjoy whatever is growing on that farm for the season. Typically, each week, you pick up a box of whatever produce is growing on the farm. How much and what types of produce you get depends on whether you buy a full- or half- share, some half-shares only offer vegetables and no fruit. However, some CSA’s also offer the choice of meats, cheeses, eggs, flowers, and anything else that can be produced on the farm. The pick-up location depends on the farm, but some CSA’s have pick-ups at Whole Food’s in the parking lot, or for example, we had a CSA pick-up location here at CLM a few years ago.

There are many benefits to joining a CSA, not just limited to my points below:

1. SUPPORT THE LOCAL ECONOMY: You support your local economy by keeping the money local (instead of buying your fruit from California or Argentina…). You support the farmers in your surrounding area, which in turn, will make your town more aesthetically pleasing- wouldn’t you rather look at a farm than a parking lot or cookie-cutter houses that all look the same?

2. DECREASE CARBON EMMISSIONS: Each mile produce has to travel is another mile of fuel usage. For example, if you get your produce from Mexico, think about the miles and gas a truck goes through getting the produce from Mexico to PA.

3. MORE FLAVORFUL PRODUCE: Each day produce is no longer growing the taste begins to dwindle. When it is very fresh, it always tastes better- a prime example is Jersey tomatoes (which I pick up on the way to/from the shore, thus, it is local for me…).

4. MORE NUTRITIOUS PRODUCE: Each day produce is in transport or sitting in the supermarket it is losing nutrients. Most nutrient loss occurs due to light and oxygen exposure.

5. INCREASED VEGETABLE INTAKE: Many weeks, you will receive over 8 different vegetables for the week from your CSA pick-up. If you are a single person going through 2 different types of kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers, beets, and carrots, you will probably have to eat at least 2 cups of vegetables each day, if not more. I love CSA’s for this fact. In an ideal world I have my clients eating at minimum 2 cups of solid vegetables each day, ideally 5 cups. A CSA certainly helps if the buyer is a person who hates waste- then you make sure you consume all the veggies given ;-)

6. INCREASE VEGETABLE VARIETY AND INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE & COOKING SKILLS: So many of members at CLM bring in something from their CSA and ask me what it is. Most of the time I know what it is, but to be honest, there are several times when I have no idea… especially when it comes to peppers. This is a great opportunity for you to Google what vegetable family it might be in and look at the different varieties. Then, you can Google the recommended ways to eat it. Typically, I always say you can’t go wrong cooking in a stir fry, roasting, or steaming. If you have kids, this is an excellent opportunity to get them interested in trying new foods!

If you are interested in joining a CSA, visit to find CSA’s in your area. For another article on CSA's, visit Philly Magazine's article Eat Fresh: 11 Community-Supported Agriculture Programs in PhiladelphiaThey do tend to be more expensive than if you bought produce at Gentiles in Newtown Square… but you get all the benefits mentioned above, and most are “Certified Naturally Grown” farms. For example, a farm in Montgomery County, Two Miles Micro-Farm at the Permanent Future Institute offers CSA shares from April-September, with a half share (22 weeks) costing $375.00.

My Recommendation:

I definitely recommend families try to partake in a CSA at least once in their life. If you are hesitant or don’t think you can eat all the produce, maybe do a half-share with a friend to get started and see how that goes. If the cost is too much, try going vegetarian during the duration of the CSA (which won’t be difficult due to the amount of veggies you get!). You will re-coup the money you would have spent on chicken and beef by opting for lentils and edamame instead. A CSA that is $375 for 22 weeks averages out to just about $17/week… which isn’t bad at all knowing that you will be healthier, supporting the local farmers, and getting fresher produce (amongst all the reasons listed above). For those of you who do belong do a CSA or plan to join (and you live nearby), if you ever have any extra produce you don’t want… feel free to hand it off to this girl ;-), I guarantee I will not let it go to waste!