Community Supported Agriculture

Every other week for the last nine months, we’ve been parking in an alley and meeting strangers behind a building who provide us with an enormous box of produce. I think it might be my new favorite way to grocery shop.  
California basically has a year-round growing season. Logically, you’d think that in a state that grows an enormous percentage of the nation’s produce, it would be pretty easy to find fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Well…. sort of. The closest farms are mostly found in the central coast- many hours away from where we live. In general, it seems most of what is grown in those regions is shipped out. And what’s left is very pricey, as anyone who tries to shop for organic foods understands. The farmer’s markets can be nice, but you really have to plan ahead and get there early. Then we signed up for a CSA. 
Community Supported Agriculture programs can be found all over the country. I first heard about them from a family whose children I used to babysit. On at least one occasion, they sent me away at the end of the night with a check and a big bag of turnips. I’ll take it! 

An average week’s bounty.
For $25, we get a box of fresh, straight-from-the-farm, organic fruits and vegetables. Each program typically works with a handful of farms directly and many, like ours, donate a portion of the earnings toward community gardens, healthy, more ethical growing practices, and local schools. 
I won’t take the time now to try to convince you why fresh, local and organic are important- there’s a ton of information out there already. I do think it’s very important to be educated and aware of what you are putting into your body. It’s a bit of a shame that “organic” has become a trend for the cultural elitists when, ideally, it should be a more accessible way for all of us to live healthier, more sustainable lives. If you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend the documentary Food Inc. (learn more here: http://www.takepart.com/foodinc). 
Perhaps what I love most about our CSA share is that it forces us to be creative, to try new recipes, and to experiment with ingredients we may never have used before. We’ve enjoyed bright pink and purple potatoes, rainbow chard, mysterious, delicious fruits, carrots of every color and an abundance of greens. I began making our own stock (which I learned is super, super easy!) with any extra peelings/leaves and we were able to compost any additional waste after that. My only wish is that our subscription included the option to purchase farm-fresh dairy and eggs!
Because we only have a few weeks left in Los Angeles and need to eat everything in our fridge, freezer and most of what is in our cupboards before then, I picked up our last share this week. I think we’ll enjoy these fruits and vegetables a bit extra, knowing that the search for all things local and fresh will be significantly more difficult after we move.
 I’ll be spending a bit of time surveying our prospects through the sites listed below and I’d encourage others to do the same!  It’s a great, easy way to eat healthy, fresh foods and support local farmers. Win-win. 

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine
 or the slowest form of poison.” -Ann Wigmore

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