Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So what IS a CSA?

Young Eggplants--MINUS Colorado Potato Beetles

This question was posed to me this week. The simple answer could be a "subscription" garden... you pay your subscription for the season and get your regular installment of produce. But really, it is, and can be, so much more. Think about sustainable farming, think about knowing where your food comes from, think about getting to know your neighbors, think about supporting the local economy... Consumer Supported Agriculture is all of these things.

For us, our CSA garden provides us with a way to afford being able to produce high quality non-chemical food for our family and friends. We have the land, but there is so much more expense involved--including seeds, water and irrigation, mulch, natural soil supplements, time, and of course, a method of deterring the deer from the HUMAN food. (Yes, maybe the kids are right about this obsession with the deer...) Pushing the limits on our short growing season can also increase the monetary costs of the garden--a greenhouse, hoophouses, and row covers to protect those tender plants from frosts and also to encourage early production. It takes a bit of planning and work to get tomatoes by July 1 in Minnesota! All of these things have monetary costs, but the benefits SO outweigh the costs. And those costs are minor compared to the costs of produce shipped from various parts of the world so that we have the luxury of out-of-season produce.

In these days of Big Ag, it's difficult to support a family by farming alone. This is where Community Supported Agriculture--in the form of subscription gardening, farmer-direct meat purchasing, local farmers markets--make a huge difference. We are far from supporting our family with our CSA garden, but it does support our quest for a healthier style of eating and living.

And not only are you sustaining a farmer's way of living, but consider how that farmer is sustaining the earth. While we are not organic-certified, we grow our fruits and vegetables by organic methods. Last year that resulted in our 2 older sons going out in regular intervals with a jar of sudsy water and a knife to look under each leaf of the eggplants in search of Colorado Potato Beetle bugs, eggs, and larvae. The adult beetles and larvae were sent to drown in the jars while the orange eggs were smashed with a knife and scraped into the jar also. We had only a minor infestation so were able to curtail it with about 2 weeks of the intense "beetle search." The boys learned more than they wanted to about the life cycle of the nasty beetles, but they can identify them in a flash! In a conventional garden, we may have tried a plethora of nasty chemicals, only to find the beetles already had an immunity or developed an immunity to them, while questioning if we really should eat anything that was within 10 feet of the chemical. And then what could the after-effects of whatever was used be on beneficial insects? This is just one small example of how we take seriously our role as stewards of the earth.

So, what is a CSA??? It's building a network, it's protecting the earth, it's getting to know where your food comes from, it's supporting a farmer... and it's GOOD EATING!
PingTung Long Eggplant

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