Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eco-Stepping with Community Supported Agriculture

"Hello, yeah, it's been a while.  Not much, how about you?" 

Okay, so now that you're in a '70's kind of mood, let's talk about Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs.  Community Supported What?

According to Wikipedia, community-supported agriculture (in Canada Community Shared Agriculture) (CSA) is a socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. CSAs usually consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme, and sometimes includes dairy products and meat.

Still feeling the 70's or even the 60's?  Maybe even a little hippie-ish?  Let's press on with a little history. 
Community-supported agriculture began in the early 1960s in Germany, Switzerland and Japan as a response to concerns about food safety and the urbanization of agricultural land.  That may sound like long, long ago and far, far away, but recent news has indicated otherwise. 

At present, world food prices have skyrocketed with no real end in sight.  And with June of 2010 being the hottest on record, the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, flooding in Pakistan, and drought and wild fires in Russia, I think it's time that everyone start paying a little closer attention. 

Additionally in March of 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Food Price Index (FFPI) rose for the eighth consecutive month, averaging 236 points in February 2011, up 2.2 percent from January and the highest since January 1990, with dairy products and cereals (grains) climbing the most.  It would seem that globally, we are on the edge of what has been called "The Great Food Crisis of 2011."

Well, all of that sure sounds scary and complicated.  But in the spirit of eco-steps, we (you and me, our neighbors, friends, etc.) can help do something about it.  Instead buying food from far across the globe-- or the average of 1500-2000 miles away, we could check out our local CSA scene.  The benefits are many including:
  • Access to seasonal fresh fruits and veggies and sometimes meat, dairy and eggs.  Many use organic practices even if they are not certified. 
  • Keeping your dollars in your local economy.  For every $100 spent at a chain store, only $13 stays in the community.  For every $100 spent locally, $45 remains in the community.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of your food.  Factoid: A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. No wonder they end up limp and lifeless in your fridge!  They're tired!!
  • Connecting to your community and deepening your roots (pun intended).
  • Improving your food security by simplifying the food supply chain.
You can learn more about your local CSAs at Local Harvest.  Local Harvest also lists farms and farmer's markets-- another option for fresh produce, meats and dairy.

Going local isn't just for adults.  Kids are really getting into the concept of eating fresh, locally grown food.  After all, they are our future. So it's important that they get started out on the right path!  You can check out one youngster's journey at Veggies Go Crunch! 

Have you already joined a CSA?  What have your experiences been?  Do you have suggestions or can you add to the list of benefits?  Or, are you a newbie and have questions?  We'd love to hear from you! 

Please add your thoughts to the comments section below!


  1. Nice post! So happy you're blogging again!


  2. Hi Amy! Happy you're back.

    Last year I became a CSA participant for the first time, and it was a great experience. I learned to prepare veggies I was unfamiliar with and enjoyed an abundance of tomatoes because the summer was so hot.

    My CSA is based in urban back yards. It's an interesting twist on the standard CSA model and makes the food even more local. Inspired by the project, I became the volunteer coordinator and am working on setting up an internship program for this growing season. If any of your readers are based in Toronto, here's the link to our website: http://yufcsa.com (the "yuf" stands for Young Urban Farmers)

  3. This is a well rounded "eco-step" it hits the core areas that really make a difference.
    Well done.

  4. Thanks for the great feedback! Andrea, thanks for sharing your website for the Young Urban Farmers. Good stuff!

  5. Here is a neat post I found about the cost of eating healthy food from Mark's Daily Apple: