The watermelon I ate today came from somewhere in Mexico. At least thats what the sticker on it said. That red smiling slice was all I needed after gardening under the hot Colorado sun. I like to think of watermelon juice as water of the gods. Although refreshingly good, I started to feel guilty. I know it’s fruit. It’s fairly healthy. Yet, I didn’t know anything else about this particular melon. Was it sprayed with pesticides? Did it travel all those miles on the back of a truck puffing pollution into the air? I couldn't know the answers to these questions even if I googled it. That made me uncomfortable. Once you become aware of what questions to ask and what the consequences can be a watermelon is no longer just a watermelon.
I could've chosen an in-season fruit. I could've picked it up from a farmer I know or even had it delivered from a farm in town. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are direct partnerships between farmers and the public. CSA members pay a fee before the growing season begins. Farmers then provide weekly produce ‘shares’ to members from each harvest. I would've known all I needed to about the watermelon I ate. Sustainable living requires full-circle thinking. It’s no longer just about you. Rather, its about what you consume and the effects it has on the Earth and all it’s inhabitants. CSA’s offer that insight for their members.
Access to affordable, pesticide-free produce is important for a healthy diet and a healthy planet. CSA’s foster that relationship between farmers and their community. Memberships usually include visitation and/ or volunteer opportunities at the farm. See first-hand what farming practices are used on the produce you eat. If the farmer plucks a mustard green leaf and eats it in front of you then you know it’s trustworthy. At Raisin Roots Farm, a CSA in Colorado, volunteers weed together, tasting the fruits of their labor as they go. Arugula has never tasted as good as it did the day I weeded it then popped a leaf into my mouth. Once upon a time healthy food inherently meant pesticide-free. Now, we have to redefine what healthy means. Many of us want to know what’s in our food. We would love to have fresh tomatoes from the garden. Joining a CSA is an easy way to make that happen. Enjoy those tomatoes right after harvest knowing exactly what you’re biting into.
Eating local isn't just a popular food fad encouraging consumers to visit cute, little cafes downtown. Yes, eating locally often results in the dopest Instagram pics but thats just another perk. Purchasing from locally sourced restaurants, markets, and farms contributes to the local economy and reduces greenhouse gases emitted during transportation of food. Most of the food we eat travels over 2,000 miles to get to us. Packaging labels bombard the consumer with “fresh” banners. Well, how fresh could it really be after that road trip? Not as fresh as getting it from the CSA down the road. Raisin Roots Farm's CSA offers home delivery or weekly pick-ups at two local farmers markets. Toss that spinach you picked up with balsamic vinaigrette knowing exactly how far it traveled to get to your plate.
The USDA has 724 CSA’s listed in the United States. They can vary in membership benefits, in number of members, and number of crops. Raisin Roots Farm is just 2 acres and produces 50 crops depending on the season. In Spring you can expect snow peas and radishes. Maybe, try a new salad recipe? Summer tomatoes and fresh basil shares pair perfectly with mozzarella for picnics. Harvests in the Fall hail in colder weather and nutty squash soups. Ben Pfeffer, owner/operator for Raisin Roots Farm, answeredr any question we threw at him about his produce. He openly shared organic tactics such as flame-weeding where a torch is used to burn off the protective coating on leaves. It prevents the weeds from photosynthesizing as normal. They shrivel up in an efficient, eco-friendly way leaving the surrounding produce, the people who work on the farm, and the people who eat the produce unharmed. How comforting is that? It puts a whole new spin on ‘comfort food’.
Local farms create community by bringing people together and food is just the beginning. Raisin Roots Farm sometimes doubles as the setting for Little House of Sound, a solar powered recording studio inside this VW bus. The day we visited they were setting up to shoot with a local artist. Other farms even double as event/ wedding spaces or host educational programs.
So how do you find a CSA in your area? Local Harvest is a great resource for finding CSA’s nationwide. Another place to start would be your local farmers market. Visit on a Saturday morning. Talk to the farmers. Sample the products. Sign up. How much easier can it get?