My family and I eat a lot of produce and we buy all organic. This obviously can get pretty expensive, especially when you’re looking for GOOD organic fruit. Health food stores usually have beautiful selections of organic produce, but only if you’re willing to pay the big price tag. Big chain, mainstream grocery stores often have at least some organic produce at perhaps a slightly lower cost, but it does not always look very appealing and it tends to sit on the shelf longer with slower turnover and I find by the time I get it home, it just spoils pretty quick. And no matter which store you buy your produce, its more than likely been picked prior to its prime ripeness, traveled sometimes thousands of miles, and ripened in a truck (or still hasn’t ripened at all)! Because the nutrient levels of the fruit or vegetable reach their peak once they have fully ripened on the plant, ripening on the truck does not allow for optimal nutrition from the produce.
So, what are we to do? One option is farmers markets. I find the prices at farmers markets can be somewhat reasonable and they often do have organic stands, but not always. These can be a great option when the market near you is offered at a convenient time that works into your schedule. Farmer’s markets may also be seasonal, open only May-September or so, which doesn’t help us get fresh produce for half of the year.
Another option (my favorite) is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This a small farm local to you that grows (usually) organic produce to sell to local residents of the community. Here’s how it works. Each CSA has a predetermined number of weeks for which you will pay upfront and receive a produce box for each of those weeks (although some do have payment plans or allow week by week payments). For example, you will pay for 10 weeks of produce and for the next 10 weeks, you will receive a box each week. Every week, the farm will pack your box, in the size you choose depending on how much you eat, of fresh produce for that week. You’ll pick up your box at a designated location and a time , although some will even deliver, and then enjoy everything they’ve packed for you. Its that simple! The number of people joining CSAs has been on the rise in recent years and here are a few reasons why, along with a few things to keep in mind when considering joining.
Reasons to Join:
- You support small, local (often family operated) farms, rather than big business agriculture. These are full-time farmers who have a passion for farming and often work very long days. They are not part of the big business agriculture who often make big profits. Of course, the small farmers need to make money too, but they do not get any subsidies from the government (as big farmers usually d0). They do this because they love it and want to provide wholesome organic food to their local community. Supporting them means you support a small business owner who puts care into growing your food!
- Your produce will be extremely fresh, like picked the day before or early that morning right when its perfectly ripe. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! This means the flavor is best and the nutritional value is at its peak. No ripening in a truck or being picked a week early.
- The cost is much lower than what you would pay at any grocery store for organic because you remove the middlemen (truck drivers, retail stores, etc) from the process. In a CSA, the food goes directly from the farmer to the consumer (aka, you) allowing pries to stay much lower.
- You get to know the farmer! Often when you go to pick up your box of weekly produce, you will meet the farmer, or one of the helpers, that helped grow the food! I love this aspect, because it really helps you feel so much more connected to your food and where it came from. You can ask questions about the farm, the food, or even ask for tips on preparing it. Many times, you can even take a trip to the farm and see all your food actually growing. This is especially fun for kids to see where the food comes from and how it all grows. We visited our farm recently and the kids got to help the farmer and then bring home some of the veggies they picked themselves! This is a great way to let kids feel connected to their veggies!
- You will get produce you have never seen or heard of before, and this keeps things interesting. So many people tell me they get bored of eating all the same veggies every week and they don’t buy other stuff because they don’t know what to do with it. It may seem daunting to get something that you haven’t a clue about, but the farmer can give you great tips on how to cook it up or eat it raw, and it’s so easy to go online and type in something like “Swiss chard recipes” and you’ll get great ideas of what to do with Swiss chard. Just pick the recipe that looks the most appealing (and quickest) and whip it up. You may just find a favorite new food or something your kids will actually eat because they love it!
- You may not know what types of fruits and vegetables you are getting until you pick up your box or sometimes the day before. This can be a challenge for people who like to plan ahead, but if you are flexible with your meals, this can be a lot fun. It keeps me on my toes!
- You may have to pay upfront for many weeks worth of produce, which can be a challenge. But keep in mind that once you pay for it, you won’t have to spend money on produce again for a couple of months. Find out how the local CSA near you expects payments.
- You will likely get food that you just don’t like. As I mentioned above, you will get stuff you never knew existed and with that comes the risk of not liking it. On the flip side, you may love it, or maybe your kids will.
- Make sure you order the box size that best fits the needs of you and your family. If you’re not used to eating a lot of produce, but just want to give it a try, maybe just start with the smallest box. You don’t want to have to throw out anything at the end of the week.
- You’ll only be getting produce that’s in season in the area you live. If you live in Kansas, you won’t be getting food grown in Florida or California. But you will be getting food local to where you live, which is one of the foundations of macrobiotic health, connects you to your own environment.
You can find CSAs local to you at www.localharvest.org.
Are you already part of a CSA? How do you like it or not like it? Where do you like to buy your fresh produce and why?