RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables isn’t just good for your waistline. A diet rich in produce can also provide the same blood pressure-lowering benefits as medication, slash your risk of certain types of cancer, and help protect you from heart disease and stroke. And the rise of community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs makes it easier than ever to get cheaper, locally grown, and, often, organic produce without setting foot in a grocery store during the growing season.
THE DETAILS: Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs cut out the middle man and allow you to buy food directly from farmers, which often results in cheaper, fresher produce. You will have to pay for your subscription up front—shares usually cost between $400 and $600—but in exchange you’ll get weekly or monthly shares of vegetables and fruit. Some programs include, or allow you to add on for an additional cost, fresh-cut flowers, meat, eggs, milk, or other farm products. The concept of CSA is really catching on—in 1990 in the U.S., about 50 CSA programs were in operation. Compare that to the 2,200 across the country today.
WHAT IT MEANS: CSA programs present a win-win situation for you and farmers, and they also change your relationship with your food. Since you get only what’s ready for picking, you learn to appreciate what’s in season, from early-season lettuce to late-autumn pumpkins. As a shareholder, you’ll become more in tune with local growing conditions: If there’s a torrential downpour that damages the strawberry crop in the spring, farmers may make that up to you with extra apples in the fall. And along with age-old favorites, such as tomatoes and leafy greens, chances are you’ll also get to sample some veggies you haven’t tried before, such as sunchokes. Don’t worry, many farms include recipes to help you cook up the harvest. And you can always find healthy ideas on the Rodale Recipe Finder.
Here are the ABCs of CSA: