Better Living Through CSA—Hereâ€TMs the Skinny Food is part of our lives every day. We eat to live, and why not live well? –Anna Thomas After eating a winter CSA (community supported agriculture) salad, which took all of 15 minutes to prepare, I feel sharper and lighter. And itâ€TMs not just my imagination. The ingredients—lettuce, kale, carrots, radishes, sweet peppers, scallions and broccoli—are all part of my bimonthly share of a winter CSA. Each vegetable, buzzing with color, was planted and fussed over by godly folk. And they were harvested less than 50 miles away, not yet 24 hours beforehand. There is no way that I can overstate the means by which a CSA adds value to life. In my experience, it is the Holy Grail—the thing by which I muster special powers. Wash, chop, stir and invigorate. By definition, CSA is a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, in a sense, that communityâ€TMs farm. CSA is not about cheap food. The focus is on maintaining healthy soil, which makes the discussion of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers moot. As one who opts to sign up for a season of produce, your payments provide working capital to uphold the cost of the farmâ€TMs operation including equipment, labor, seeds and fuel. A CSA subscription is a working intention that the kosher farming life will continue. There are four main types of CSAs:
Farmer Managed: The farmer sets up and maintains a CSA, recruits subscribers and manages the CSA. Shareholder/Subscriber Managed: Locals set up a CSA and hire a farmer to grow crops and shareholders/subscribers manage it. Farmer Cooperative: A group of farmers establishes a CSA program. Farmer/Shareholder Cooperative: A farmer and local residents set up and cooperatively manage a CSA. A majority of CSAs in Tennessee are farmer-managed or farmer cooperative—all the better for you to act as grateful recipient when itâ€TMs time to collect your basket of goodies. Locations for pick-up include the farm, the local farmersâ€TM market or a designated spot in town. Paramount is an understanding that as subscriber you share the bounty and the risk of the agricultural enterprise (and even the occasional party favor of foodâ€TMs genesis…dirt). In most cases the farmers are paid in advance for shares of the harvest. CSAs provide farmers with better prices for their crops and relieve them of marketing duties. Each CSA is structured differently, with multiple levels of financial commitment and payment plans. Maybe you are reading this over a plate of food so dead that health benefits are as distant as the moon. Another choice awaits. Consider that after consulting Local Tableâ€TMs CSA directory (http://www.localtable.net/farm_guide/index.php#.VjaVYyvWGaw, click on â€~CSAâ€TM under â€~categoryâ€TM), you could contact a CSA close to home or work. You will be rewarded as an official CSA member. Maybe soon you will open your refrigerator door to the freshness you slipped onto the shelves after pick-up: seasonal vegetables, tasty cuts of meat, fresh eggs, milk, cheese, apples, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, fresh jams, jellies, honey, sauces…not to mention soaps, firewood, flowers…