Tis the season to sign up for weekly vegetable delivery boxes! Commonly known as CSAs. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Why community-supported?
By purchasing these boxes, community members support farmers and their crops with upfront investment. These investments are typically made before the growing season begins and make it possible for farmers to prepare for the season before their crops are grown and ready to be sold. Through this purchase, consumers take on the risks that farmers face with every crop, and, ultimately, will receive the bounty once the crops have come to fruition.
Buying a CSA supports local farmers and creates stronger regional foodsheds. In March of 2020, we caught a glimpse of the risks we run with food systems that import from abroad rather than supporting farmers growing within our own borders.
There are a ton of options out there when it comes to CSAs, and after a few years of getting my own, and a handful of years working in Marketing in the environmental sector, I've learned a thing or two about food, greenwashing, and what's important to me when I choose a CSA.
Agricultural practices. Supporting sustainable farming is a non-negotiable for me. I lean toward Certified Organic because fertilizers and synthetic pesticides are toxic, hazardous to the planet and everything that lives on it. I don't want to eat food that kills animals, birds or insects, nor do I think that anyone along the food chain should be exposed to chemicals for my food. Look for the Certified Canadian Organic logo as a guarantee of organic practices.
Bonus: Regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is gaining attention lately because these practices go beyond sustainability - they regenerate the soil and all ecological systems, and drawdown carbon. Woven together with organic practices, these are exactly what we need to slow the climate crisis. In Canada, we don't yet have an established certification, but some practices to look for are cover-cropping, crop rotations, no til or low til, grazing, perennials, agroforestry - ask your farmer about their practices. In my experience, they'll be open to talking about them and honest about where they stand.
Customizations & add-ons. I look for CSAs that have options to customize baskets or to add additional products. This means customizing deliveries to avoid certain vegetables or to add in eggs or grains. I also like to check that the share might allow me to skip a week when on vacation. These aren't dealbreakers; they just make each basket a little, extra special and more convenient!
Delivery or pick-up day. I recommend avoiding the weekends and opting for a week-night. Although many of us work during the week, keeping weekends open during the summer months makes it easier to fully appreciate your share and less likely to need to reschedule your delivery because of a weekend away!
Recipes & produce info. Recipes and tips for storing are an undervalued component of CSAs! My last share provided great recipe ideas and storing methods every week. Both these made storing food and cooking easier; enabling me to try more recipes and eat (almost) all the food delivered right to my door.