Joining a harvest share program is a wonderful way to buy local and help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. A commitment to community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a commitment to local food diversity and sustainable farming practices, as well as to eating fresh, wholesome, delicious food.
With a CSA harvest share program, you pay in and then, during the season, receive a bounty of handpicked produce on a regular basis—usually once or twice a week—thus helping to provide the farmer with funding to engage in more labor-intensive small-scale farming that’s healthier for the environment and healthier for you.
The Benefits of CSA Harvest-Sharing
>A better economic model
Offering a community-strengthening economic model that allows growers and consumers to share the risks and the benefits of food production, CSAs are a viable alternative to corporate agribusiness, whose short-term shareholder profits come at the long-term expense of everyone else, along with the health of the planet. You’ll note that there is some risk involved. However, by taking on a small share of the risk, you are mitigating the stress on the farmers and gaining awareness of the processes that go into the food you consume.
Food safety is a serious concern for today’s global food supply system. But with a CSA harvest share, you have the opportunity to get to know the farmers producing your food and the conditions it’s produced under. It comes right from the field to your home, with minimal denaturalizing processing. The produce is often organic, and it’s always fresh, bursting with flavor, and as nutritious as you can get!
>Lower transportation and processing costs
Harvest share programs function at the local level, cutting down on the environmental costs of distribution. According to a 2011 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the food sector accounts for over 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and produces over 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And High-GDP countries use nearly 50 percent of this energy for processing and transport. With harvest share programs, you’re not only embracing the concept of buying local to cut down on transport energy use and pollution, but you’re also making an impact by reducing the costs to the environment of commercial processing, packaging, storage, and display.
CSAs are committed to using sustainable farming practices, working with the cycles of nature rather than attempting to tame them. Organic farms reduce the amount of harmful chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers in the ecosystem, while green technologies and integrated farming techniques cut down on fossil fuel consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
As reported by the FAO, around one-third of the food we produce—and the energy embedded in it—is lost or wasted. Food waste in European and North American countries is 95-115 kg per capita per year, and over half of total losses occurring in high-GDP countries are due to the deterioration of fresh produce. Contributing factors include a mismatch between supply and demand and throwing away items that have exceeded the “use by” date. Harvest share programs remove the need for long-term storage. And by allowing farmers to adjust their output to the needs and desires of their members, they cut down on food waste at the production level.
Harvest Share Resources
So, the reasons for joining a harvest share program are many. Now, you just need to find a CSA farm near you. However, if you are among the many people who grew up in an urban environment rather than in a farming community, the prospect of taking in and not allowing all that fresh, healthy goodness go to waste can be quite daunting. But don’t worry—there are many resources out there to help you. In fact, you’ll discover that one of the best things about harvest share programs is connecting with people who want to aid others in learning about the joys of eating well, living bountifully, and helping the planet. Soon, you’ll be preparing your kitchen like a pro, establishing your routines, and getting excited about your next harvest basket.
A good place to begin your search for information about local CSA produce is at the farmers’ market, if there is one in your area. Also, check out the websites of CSA farms for recipes and tips on how to properly store and preserve your bounty. Here are a few helpful online resources to get you on your way:
>CSA Farm Directories
localharvest.org, Community Supported Agriculture (United States)
csafarms.ca, Ontario CSA Farm Directory
farmfolkcityfolk.ca, CSA Programs (British Columbia)
urgenci.net, European Handbook on Community Supported Agriculture
>Enjoying the Harvest
thekitchen.com, The Kitchen’s Guide to Storing Fruits and Vegetables
vegetariantimes.com, Spoiled Rotten—How to Store Fruits and Vegetables
almanac.com, The Old Farmer’s Almanac—Cooking and Recipes
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Energy-Smart” Food for People and Climate Issue Paper (.pdf), 2011.
DeFrancesco, Ida and Joseph. Surviving the Harvest: Enjoying the Harvest, 2014.
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