When it comes to fresh organic food, the best place you can get it is from the person who grew it - the farmer. In the Pittsburgh, one of the best cities for farmers markets, we are lucky to have numerous options fresh produce or grass fed poultry / beef straight from the farm. The problem is that farmers markets are only one or two days a week and so we still did quite a bit of shopping at the grocery store, that is, until earlier this year when we became members of a local CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. What is CSA you ask?
CSA is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters which provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food. Supporters cover a farm's yearly operating budget by purchasing a share of the season's harvest. CSA members make a commitment to support the farm throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks and bounty of growing food along with the farmer or grower. Members help pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment maintenance, labor, etc. In return, the farm provides, to the best of its ability, a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season. Becoming a member creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it.Subscribing to a CSA is awesome. Here is how it works. Each Friday for the past several months we pick up a bag or box full of fresh organic greens, veggies, eggs, fruits, etc from a sponsor who volunteers to be the drop off point for the farmer in that neighborhood. We are fortunate enough to be within walking distance from the current sponsor. In most cases you should be able to find someone sponsoring a CSA within a reasonable distance from your home. Our current subscription, which runs for about six months, averages out to be about $20 a week, and in addition to the items mentioned above we have additional options, such as ordering cheeses, whole grass fed chickens, or even ground beef or steaks from grass fed cattle. The variety of the food you get each week depends on the time of the season and of course the part of the country you live in. Right now we're getting a lot of greens - romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, etc, but the contents will vary some between different growers. Pictured at the right is the latest batch of goodies we received from our CSA.
The change in our eating and shopping habits is dramatic to say the least. We no longer purchase meat or greens at the grocery store. In addition to saving us hundreds of dollars a month from our grocery bill, the CSA we belong to gives us REAL organic food - harmful chemicals are not used on its produce. Additionally, we're saving literally tons of carbon emissions since the food is grown right here in our own backyard instead of on the other side of the country.
I encourage everyone reading this, regardless of where you live in the US, to look into subscribing to a CSA. If you want to eat healthier food you can continue to spend your paycheck buying organic at Whole Foods, or you can get the same quality food for less money while having the piece of mind that you are supporting local farmers. What are you waiting for?