How to eat locally: CSAs
written by Madeleine Spitzler, AFM Outreach Intern
Strolling down the long aisles of large supermarkets, we often come across fruits and vegetables in the produce section that have travelled from as far as South America or Europe. Being in Athens, GA, we cannot help but think about the long and treacherous journey our produce takes en route to our dinner table. With the long flights and truck rides, how can this food stay fresh? And in terms of sustainability, there's no way these unnecessarily long transportation methods are helping with the issue of global warming.
Well, how can we avoid purchasing and therefore supporting imported produce? We can choose to eat locally. By visiting the Athens Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, we are not only supporting our local economy, but we are gaining access to produce that is in season and transported super short distances to get to market. In addition to farmers markets, let's explore another way to obtain local, seasonal food through the use of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
So what exactly is Community Supported Agriculture? For the past 25 years, CSAs have served as an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. Essentially, individuals who become CSA members pay a sum to a farm (or group of farms) at the beginning of a harvest season, and in return, receive a regular share of harvest throughout this growing season. This “subscription” to the farm provides members with a box full of all different types of produce, and sometimes can include other farm products like honey, dairy, eggs, or meat.
This type of system is a win-win for both the farmer and the CSA member. Farmers benefit by receiving payment early on in the season which can help with costs up front, and at the weekly pickups, they have the opportunity to interact with the people who are consuming the food they grow. On the other side, the consumers are able to have access to super fresh food, are exposed to all different types of produce, and get to interact directly with the farmers who grow their food. What more could you ask for!?
Wondering about CSA programs in Athens? Here’s how you can get involved with Community Supported Agriculture locally:
1) Woodland Gardens Organic Farm
Located just outside of Athens in Winterville, GA, Woodland Gardens Organic Farm is a 12 acre, USDA certified organic vegetable, fruit and flower farm that boasts an impressive CSA program. For about $25-$30/week, Woodland Gardens offers a weekly produce box, which is paid for in installments. Their main season runs from April-Thanksgiving, and their winter season from December to April. Each box consists of about 7-10 items, ranging from strawberries to cucumbers to tomatoes in the summer and from arugula to turnips in the winter. Check out their website to learn more: http://www.woodlandgardensorganic.com/shop-1/
2) Collective Harvest
Collective Harvest is a collaboration of five local family farms that provide sustainably grown fruits and vegetables to people in the Athens area. As part of their CSA programs, they have multiple spots around Athens for picking up the CSA boxes. Collective Harvest offers two CSA box options - for $30/week, one can invest in the full share, which contains 7-10 items per week. The other option is the value share, which for $18/week, a smaller family or someone who doesn’t cook as much can invest in and receive about 5-7 items per week. Collective Harvest also offers lots of delicious add-ons like eggs, bread, honey, coffee, and more! Payment for the season is due at the first pickup. Collective Harvest also now accepts EBT and has additional options if financial assistance is needed. Learn more on their website: http://www.collectiveharvestathens.com/csa.html
3) The Veggie Patch
The Veggie Patch at Bouchard Farms is a certified organic and certified naturally grown farm located in Commerce, GA. They have a Spring, Summer, and Fall CSA share, with the option of participating in the full season, half the season, or a new ‘mini share’. The various boxes range in price from $20-$30, and are paid up front at the beginning of the season. You can pick up the CSA boxes at their farm, or they will deliver it to your home or office (Jackson, Oconee, Athens-Clarke County only)! They provide a large range of fruits and vegetables according to each season, which can be found on their website. Read more here: http://www.veggiepatchga.com/csa.html