A Delicious Partnership

Photo: iStockphoto.com
Eat well, save money and assist farmers with Community Supported Agriculture.

This month, we’re celebrating the Earth. To me, the absolute best way to do that is to find small and simple green things that you can do on a daily basis. That adds up to a lot over 365 days! One of the simplest yet smartest ways to do that is through the food you choose to eat. It’s no secret that our food system is in crisis. We’re struggling to feed the world’s population, and fertile soil is dwindling by the day, eaten away by urban sprawl, unsustainable farming practices and environmental disasters. It’s a little gloomy; however, hidden among that gloom is a hopeful story that speaks of a food revolution happening across the country – the revival of a local, sustainably grown food shed.

For me, eating locally is a thrill. Going to the grocery store these days is like taking a round-the-world trip without leaving your postal code. The food, and in particular fresh produce, has travelled from exotic places such as Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador and Mexico. I know that Canada has a well-developed greenhouse tomato industry that supplies food throughout the winter, yet strangely, the only option I can currently find is from Mexico? In Canada, issues like this can be tough to get around during the off-season, but increasingly options are becoming available. Now spring is officially here, and soon local fresh produce will again hit the stands. Weekly markets will open again! That said, I was constantly frustrated by missing market day, which led me to subscribe to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which turned out to be an amazing solution.

One of the biggest problems independent farmers are facing is getting fair market prices for their produce. By the time the final sale is made to the consumer, both a distributor and resellers have taken a cut. In Canada, we enjoy the luxury of inexpensive food, comparatively speaking, but the hidden cost is that farmers are left with very little, making it hard to keep crops in the ground. CSAs and farmers’ markets are great solutions because your money is going straight into the hands of the producers. But CSAs go one better than markets, as the money is received up front, when farmers need it most. Most CSAs work in a similar fashion: you purchase “shares” in a farmer’s crop at the beginning of the season, providing money for seeds, equipment, livestock, maintenance and so on. In return, you receive a weekly “subscription” of produce full of that week’s bounty. Your food is quite literally farm to table and couldn’t be fresher. Here are a few more reasons why this system is great:

  • Farmers have a quota, or target yield for the year, ensuring that they can meet the demand.
  • CSAs support your local organic economy – you get to eat yummy, nutritious, 100-mile food and farmers get to earn a living.
  • You share the risk. You might not realize how much a farmer puts on the line. Disasters such as drought, floods, windstorms, bug infestations, disease, etc., can destroy crops or reduce the yield. They don’t happen often, but they’re a reality of working with living things. By sharing a little bit of the risk, you help ensure that the farmer will recover and be able to operate another season.

I subscribe to two CSAs and the experience has been wonderful: one veggie (for $100/month, I receive a weekly bundle of fresh veggies) and one meat (for $50/week for one year, I receive a bulk delivery of free-range, organic meat, enough for two to eat very comfortably for 18-24 months).

Here’s one more reason to subscribe to a CSA: you save money! Usually you’ll pay less per pound than you would at the grocery store, and you don’t have to shop. Another bonus? Sometimes you receive veggies/meat you don’t usually eat. This will inspire you to try new things and research/create recipes. For good ideas, visit puregreenmag.com/organic-kitchen and check back often, as we’re adding new recipes all the time.

For more information on how to find a CSA and sustainable food in your area, check out localfoodplus.ca. Finally, for an amazing read on the subject, pick up Sarah Elton’s Locavore — I couldn’t put it down. I finished the book wanting to turn my yard into a micro-farming project!

If you have questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to get in touch: celine@puregreenmag.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Celine MacKay is the founder and editor-in-chief of Pure Green Magazine, an independent print publication for stylish green living, based in Ontario. She also owns and operates Sustain, a green home improvement store, with her husband and partner Jonathan MacKay. For a daily dose of Pure Green, to take a peek at the magazine or to subscribe, please visit http://www.puregreenmag.com. The new issue, themed “The Urban Farm,” will be available in early April.