by Lucie Patrick
With the summer months quickly approaching, the Chippewa Valley will soon be filled with an abundance of fresh, local produce. Because food is the fuel for our bodies, it is important that we choose wholesome products that are beneficial for both the earth and ourselves. Community supported agriculture (CSA) allows local citizens to fuel their bodies with wholesome, natural foods while supporting sustainability and the local economy by choosing products from local farmers.
Community supported agriculture pairs community members with local farmers and provides them with weekly shares of food. To participate in a CSA program, each member must sign up and prepay for his/her share of food.
Sylvan Hills Farm in Menomonie, Wisconsin, organizes a CSA program for residents of the Twin Cities metro area. A shareholder has the option to pay a one-time fee for a large share ($675) or a regular share ($425). The Sylvan Hills Farm CSA boxes are sent to drop points where the shareholders pick up their boxes on a designated week day.
The food delivery begins during the first three weeks of June and supplies the members until September–October, depending on the crops and weather. The share of produce can be picked up at a pre-designated location and week day throughout the CSA season.
The food that is delivered in a CSA box varies by farm. Some farms box strictly produce, while others will box dairy products and produce. The CSA boxes from Sylvan Hills Farm include various fruits and vegetables.
The box drop-off and pick-up of the CSA creates a different grocery shopping experience than the traditional in-store grocery shopping tradition. The hassle of the additional pick-up step may concern CSA newcomers, but many believe that the benefits outweigh the extra pick-up step.
Larry Diehlmann and Jackie Kujack, owners of Sylvan Hills Farm, note that one of the benefits of a CSA program is “having the box delivered for you instead of having to run down the aisle trying to decide what to buy.” Diehlmann also adds, “Some members have compared it to getting a Christmas present every week.”
Although there are many benefits to participating in a CSA, there can be disadvantages too. Diehlmann said that one of the disadvantages might be “if you are not too flexible in preparing food or trying new things.” The food in the CSA box may take extra preparation and creative recipes, but Sylvan Hills Farm aims to help the members by sending weekly emails with recipes. Diehlmann said, “We send out recipes each week that use many if not all of the box contents.”
Not only do the Sylvan Hills emails inform participants about new cuisines and the produce in their boxes, but they also inform them about how to choose the wholesome, quality foods that benefit the human body. According to Food Routes Network, a company that works to reestablish local community food systems, “Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables you to choose safe food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed in their operations.”
As consumers, it’s important that we know the source of our food so that we can purchase it from places that benefit our economy, the earth, and our bodies. For those looking to join a CSA for the upcoming summer season, Diehlmann advises, “Check to be sure that the farm is certified organic and local and small.” Larger farms may pick and refrigerate the produce multiple days in advance, leading to a loss of nutrients in the foods. Diehlmann suggests that CSA participants search for farms with 100 shares or fewer.
Choosing a farm that has a certified organic label and small shares is the best way to assure that you are choosing wholesome foods that will benefit your body. Diehlmann said, “We have maintained the USDA organic certified label since our beginning in 2003 and believe that is the most optimal way to treat the planet and the people that live on it.” Sylvan Hills Farms sells 50 shares of CSA boxes every summer to ensure that their food is always freshly picked and delivered within twenty-four hours.
Choosing a smaller, local farm also supports the local community because it returns the profit back to small businesses in the community. Diehlmann said, “The economy benefits when items are purchased locally as the dollar turns over in your community at least six times.”
CSA participants can also improve their local community by reducing their carbon footprint. Food Routes Network states, “Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials.”
Purchasing your produce from local farms like Sylvan Hills is a great way to start going green with your food. “We also believe in building community being important to any area, and CSA’s a great way to do that,” said Diehlmann. Choosing local organic foods will benefit your body, community, and planet. Make the right decision and go green with your grub today.
For those interested in improving their carbon footprint, local economy, and supporting local businesses, joining a CSA is way to be proactive in their efforts.
For more information on participating in a community supported agriculture program, please visit www.localharvest.org/csa/
Lucie is a journalism student interning at Second Opinion Magazine this semester. She studies Professional Communication and Emerging Media at UW-Stout and will be graduating in May.