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Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) has existed since the early 1980s. Only recently, however, its popularity has exploded, as millennials and health-conscious consumers demand fresher, simpler, more environmentally friendly fruits and vegetables. And what could be friendlier than supporting a local farmer and reaping the health benefits of organic produce?
Buying organic, sustainable food directly from nearby farms is as simple as signing up for a low cost membership at the beginning of each growing season. If you’re new to the world of CSAs — or looking for a reason to jump in — we’ve got four key features of the community-based agricultural revolution.
Reduced Carbon Footprint. One major benefit of eating locally is a massively reduced carbon footprint. Just imagine the energy it takes to get a tiny strawberry from the fertile farms of the west coast to grocery stores here in the District. As that little berry travels from farm, to truck, to plane, to truck, to store shelf, it creates a significant amount of CO2 emissions — adding its own burden to our ever more fragile climate. Consumers can eliminate those wasteful emissions by participating in community-shared agriculture, where it’s only one stop or drop off from a local farmer to you.
Better Food and Better Health. Because local farms are often smaller and focus on quality over quantity, they tend to have more sustainable farming practices — such as not using pesticides, hormones or other additives to make the food grow at abnormally rapid rates. As a result, local produce grows in its most natural environment, retaining all the essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals we need, and negating any harmful residual toxins.
Cheaper than the Grocery Store. Participating in community-shared agriculture can often be cheaper than a weekly grocery shop. There is one caveat, however: Some community-shared agriculture programs require that members pay the full amount upfront, which can range from $350 to $600 for a 15-week share. That’s $23 to $40 a week. If you’re the sort who keeps a regular budget, you’ll know if that’s an expenditure on fresh produce that you’re comfortable with.
Convenience. Technology has allowed for a number of online options when it comes to customizing a CSA. While some farmers require that buyers pick up their food each week at a designated location in the city, others offer home delivery or the option to collect produce at local farmers markets, such as Freshfarm Markets. Some go even further. CSA programs like Bending Bridge Farms and From the Farmer provide a weekly list of veggies to pick and choose from. That makes planning weekly meals a cinch.
To find a CSA near you, click here.