1. Support local farms. Family farms are on the fritz. Over the past century the number of farms has vastly reduced and our produce is coming from farms that are bigger and further away. The more support we give local farms, the greater knowledge of where our food comes from we have and the more secure we can feel in our buying choices. These farms are less often involved in government subsidy programs thus receiving less government money, which means that they need more help from individuals, like us!
2. Reduce your footprint. Not only is your food traveling less distance, but because the farms are smaller it takes less heavy machinery to plant and harvest. The typical CSA uses almost no packaging besides a box for delivery and the occasional returnable bag, whereas supermarkets largely use styrofoam and plastic based packaging.
3. Be season conscious. It’s really difficult to eat seasonally. Tomatoes are mouthwatering all year round and resistance seems pathetically useless. And yet, tomatoes are only ripe for about two months of the year in New York and surrounding areas. It feels surprisingly fantastic to eat what is available seasonally. Food tastes better, is naturally ripe, and often comes in huge harvests and is thus cheaper. (Drive upstate a few miles, people are leaving boxes of zucchini on the road with TAKE ME signs.) Also, being aware of what the earth is producing for your intake is always a reliable source for understanding what should go in your body, floaty as that notion may seem.
4. Build a community. Being part of a CSA is an obvious way of meeting and influencing your neighbors and nearby food producers. It’s not called Community Supported Agriculture for nuthin’.
5. Try new veggies. When you sign up for a share you have minimal choice in what you get each week. For families, the variety of vegetables that you get can greatly expand how your kids (and you) think about their veggies and what they’re excited to try. If it’s ripe, it’s dinner.
6. Reduce your meat intake. It’s become habitual in our culture to eat meat at nearly every meal, although nutritionists are quickly becoming aware that our diet needs little to no meat. Having an abundance of vegetables on hand gives you the opportunity to eat far less animal. The meat industry is a bigger contributor to carbon emissions than transportation, and the treatment of animals in factory farms is frightful and dangerous to your wellbeing. Your share can provide most if not all of your meals for the week, especially if you combine with some strategically placed bulk items. If you do want to add meat to your dinner, it’s possible that the same farm you get your share from will have some responsibly produced meat, which you can feel good about feeding to your family.
7. Learn to cook. Everyone has their standard repertoire of fallback meals. The diversity of vegetables you get will either teach you to modify your fallbacks or branch out and learn new things altogether.
8. Improve your nutrition. People who cook at home are healthier – much healthier. Knowing exactly what’s in your meals is the only way to avoid excess sodium, sugars and fats, which are the three big baddies that get added to nearly everything store-bought. The types of produce that arrive in your share are the most nutrient-rich foods you can find to put in your body, period.
9. Save money. Although CSAs ask for their fare in one chunk before the season starts, they mostly end up costing about $20 to $25 per week, which is incredibly affordable. Since you’re spending less time in supermarkets you’re apt to make fewer impulse decisions (which add up quickly). And if you have a short non-CSA list (milk, eggs, cheese, bulk grains, spices perhaps?) you can actually eat very well for cheap.
10. Forget the brainstorm. The permanent hang-up with supermarket shopping seems always to be the brainstorm. The ruts. The “again?”s. It is magnificent not to have to come up with what to buy, but only what to cook. Buy a seasonal cookbook or type up what came in your share in Google and thousands of recipes will pop up. One of them is bound to be perfect for you and your fam.