Is your head spinning from the toxic confluence of bad news about our national obesity epidemic, looming food shortages, dangerous droughts, and other urban plagues? What you need is a breath of fresh air, right?
Now just imagine getting all that fresh air while taking care of your weekly food shopping. It may sound too good to be true, but its not. Fresh air and fresh food can be yours when you visit your local Community Supported Agriculture group or CSA.
CSAs: A Noble But Humble History
CSAs have been in operation in America for nearly 30 years ago, modeling the innovation of a couple of enterprising farmers in Europe. Statics are sketchy as to the number of CSAs in operation here. In 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported more than 12,000. More recently, LocalHarvest has guestimated that there are 4,000 CSAs in operation across the country today.
Organic farms that are Certified Naturally Grown represent the gold-standardyou know, its like the old Good Housekeeping seal of approval, only organic and better tasting.
A Model Of Elegant Simplicity
Community Supported Agriculture groups work like this: You contact a friendly local farmer and you join his or her farm collective. That is, you become a member or subscriber, prepaying in the spring for the cornucopia of glorious veggies and fruits youll receive over the course of the summer.
Some CSAs also offer homemade bread, organic meats, jams, jellies, cheeses, farm-fresh eggs, and even free-range chickens. Theres a Rockwellian splendor to what they do, how they live, and how they enrich the lives of others. Norman would be proud.
Sometimes weather conditions compromise both the quality and the quantity of the produce, which is a risk both the farmer and the CSA members share. In most cases everyone usually pulls together, accepting the risks graciously, and enjoying the fellowship and camaraderie.
My Weekly Box Of Delights
Aside from concocting the odd green smoothie from time to time, I was relatively green about the organic sceneand then last spring, I met Ben Mealors of Mealor Farms in Decatur, Georgia.
Every week was like Christmas! Golden glowing tomatoes. Comically cute patty-pan squash. Richly delicious raspberries. Orange cherry tomatoes. Eggplantpurple and white. Cantaloupe. Corn. Cukes. Yum! Onions...garlic stringbeans. Oh my!
But purple okra? Does God have a sense of humor, or what? It turned out to be as marvelous as its more familiar green cousins. Oh, and did I mention the many varieties of super sweet tomatoes?
I grilled, roasted, and steamed my way through a veritable smorgasbord of delectable goodies. Yes, I even grilled the purple okra!
Admittedly I didnt pick my own produce, but I shook the young hands that did, and I felt in a strange way that I was helping to continue a family legacy. I was investing in my own health and in a wonderful family doing something truly worthwhile.