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CSA: The easy way to eat healthy by Mike Causey How would you like to be on a food plan that enables you to eat healthier, using local, farm fresh produce? Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is that food plan! CSA is a relatively new system of food distribution that is rapidly gaining in popularity. The idea that came to be known as CSA in the mid-1980s in the United States actually started in the 1960s in Europe and Japan. Most CSA farms are small, independent, family farms. By providing a guaranteed market through prepaid weekly sales, consumers help support farming operations and help keep family farms in business. Fruits and vegetables are the most common CSA crops. CSA shares, which are normally referred to as "full shares" or "half shares," are usually provided weekly, with pick-ups on a designated day and time. While the CSA season typically runs from late spring through early fall, some CSAs offer year-round shares. An advantage of CSA is "the close consumer-producer relationship [and] increased freshness of the produce, because it does not have to be shipped long distances. The close proximity of the farm to the members also helps the environment by reducing pollution caused by transporting the produce." In addition, "Over a period of time, consumers get to know who is producing their food, and what production methods are used." Some vegetables may be new to consumers, but this gives one the opportunity to be creative and experiment with different fruits and vegetables. It allows new taste sensations and exposure to different textures and flavors. It also offers a unique opportunity for creative cooking. Instead of eating the same potatoes, beans, and salad; there is an opportunity to try foods such as acorn or butternut squash cooked with apples, olive oil and a red onion. Delicious! Carli Smith, a Dodge Lodge Farm CSA member, says "Cook with the seasons and get creative!" CSA is about the seasons. Being part of a CSA makes you feel closer to nature. Changing your diet to eat with the seasons is something that happens naturally when most of your food comes from a local farm or farmer’s market. Some CSA members help one another by sharing recipes; Some CSAs publish recipe books and some encourage shareholders to pick enough food to preserve for the winter months by drying, canning, or freezing. The website LocalHarvest (www.localharvest.org ) states: A CSA is a way for the food-buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up-front, but some farmers will accept weekly or monthly payments. Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season. A CSA is about community. Carli Smith says "CSA connects you with the community and makes you feel better about the food you're eating." CSAs offer opportunities for people to meet and share ideas about food, the environment and important community issues. Some CSAs help educate consumers about diet, for example how to change diets to include more fresh produce when it is in season and how to store or preserve it for the winter. CSAs are about strengthening a sense of community. Eating locally grown, freshly harvested food is the basis of a healthy diet and is recommended by health-care practitioners. Sammie Autry, CSA member, says, "To me, local produce smells better and tastes better. Being a CSA member provides me that fresh, local produce every week. I like that." Here's what other CSA members have to say: "You know the food is fresh and it tastes good. It's a great way to support local farmers." – Susan Michel "We have to eat; I like supporting a local farmer and I like the variety." – Alexis Overstreet CSA is about families and fun. CSA members are interested in fresh vegetables but they also like to know they are supporting a farmer who shares their environmental and social concerns. CSA is about learning. CSAs are great training centers for young people who wish to learn the skills of farming, marketing, or management of CSA operations. Some CSA members volunteer to work in the garden or at the market so that they may informally learn about farming or marketing. Yes, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the easy way to eat healthy and stay healthy. Why not sign up today and get started on the road to better health, with taste that is more than wonderful. 10 Reasons to Buy Local Food 1. Locally grown food tastes better. 2. Local produce is better for you. 3. Local food preserves genetic diversity. 4. Local food is GMO-free. 5. Local food supports local farm families. 6. Local food builds community. 7. Local food preserves open space. 8. Local food keeps your taxes in check. 9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife. 10. Local food is about the future. Buy local food. Sustain local farms Mike Causey is an organic farmer, consumer advocate, writer, and consultant. He owns and manages Dodge Lodge Farm, which has been a family farm in Guilford County since 1907. To contact Mike, email DodgeLodgeFarm@aol.com or phone 336- 210-1947.