This is a guest post by Sarah Bridge of alcohol intervention programs.
The topic of food is becoming an increasingly politicised subject. As costs rise and concerns grow over the chemicals used in agriculture, not to mention the high carbon footprint from transportation and deforestation to grow crops, the whole process of food production is causing serious concern for many individuals. Thankfully there is a growing movement which aims to take the power back and make food production a community led process that will help to rebuild local economies.
In the UK and US around 25% of people now grow at least some of their own produce, however not everyone has the space or time to do it for themselves, especially in urban areas. This is where CSA, otherwise known as Community Supported Agriculture, is making a real impact on the health and well being of thousands of people across the globe. This community led approach allows consumers to make ethical choices by supporting local farmers and ensuring that the food they buy is local and largely organic.
How CSA Supports The Local Economy
The CSA movement started around 20 years ago and at present there are around 12,000 farms using this method in the USA alone. Although each of these schemes operates in their own way, the uniting factor between them all is that relationships between farmers and their communities are forged, allowing more and more people to reconnect with their food.
CSAs work by allowing consumers to buy “shares” from a local farmer, in return for fresh produce throughout the year. The benefits of this are immense for both parties. Farmers get a cash injection at the beginning of the year when the memberships are purchased or renewed and don’t have to rely on loans from corporate entities to whom they will be indebted to for the whole season. This not only helps with their cash flow, it also allows the farmers to concentrate on the marketing of their food at the beginning of the year, freeing them up to work long hours on the land when the season is in full swing.
In return, members of the scheme are guaranteed fresh, local produce which is largely organic, as well as having the opportunity to try unusual, seasonal vegetables which may not be available in the supermarkets. There are all sorts of health benefits to eating seasonally too. Numerous studies suggest that foods which are in season contain the optimum levels of nutrition for the body, which is probably why people crave stews rich in root vegetables in the winter and light salads in the summer. Not only that, but the levels of vitamins in food decrease significantly the longer the food is in storage. By eating food that has been freshly picked you are ensuring the maximum levels of nutrition from your diet.
Many schemes offer community based activities as well. There are plenty of opportunities to visit “your” farm and engage with activities to help you learn more about food and its production. Other advantages of small scale CSAs over big industrialised mega-farms is that they grow a variety of produce rather than focusing on one or two cash crops which need heavy amounts of fertilisers and pesticides in order for the food to grow. By growing a wide variety of different fruit and vegetables there is more bio-diversity. Going back to traditional methods of companion planting and encouraging natural predators such as ladybirds for pest control has a tremendous impact on the environment as well.
Shared Responsibility And Respect For The Environment
There are all sorts of benefits to joining a CSA, but of course there are some risks as well. It is very rare but there are occasionally times when crops fail or personal circumstances mean that a farmer is unable to fulfill the commitment to their members and the produce is scarce. However it is this sense of shared responsibility and commitment that helps to create the community spirit among its members.
At the end of the day by joining a CSA you are helping to support your local community by buying local. You can eat well and be healthy by having the freshest possible food and discovering how to prepare new produce that you might never have come across before, despite the fact that it grows within a few miles of your home. Not only that, you are protecting the environment too by -cutting down on food miles and packaging as well as supporting farming practices that encourage biodiversity. There are plenty of great reasons to join the food revolution today.
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