Top Ten Reasons to Join a CSA
Organized by Tony Schultz
(inspired by Monica Goldberg and borrowed heavily from experts all over the net)
10. Better Flavor
Local organic vegetables have a rich and full flavor. CSAs select for more flavorful varieties and reduce the time between the harvest and your plate. The CSA farmer harvests for ripeness and flavor whereas most industrial conventional farmers harvest for shipping and shelf-life. A tomato grown by a local farmer and never refrigerated will retain more of its delicate leguminous flavor than one shipped in a fridged plane from Guatemala. A 2001 study by researchers at Washington State University published in the journal Nature concluded, under judgment by a panel of tasters, that organic apples were sweeter. Along with taste and sweetness, the texture as well as firmness of the apples were also rated higher than those grown conventionally. These differences are attributed to the greater soil quality resulting from organic farming techniques compared to those of conventional farming. This is a main reason why many chefs select local organic food for their recipes.
9. Safer Food
Chemical Residues: CSAs typically offer organic vegetables which are grown according to strict standards without the use of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizer, genetically modified organisms, food irradiation, and cloning. A 2002 study examined data from 90,000 samples of produce and found that “nearly three-quarters of conventionally grown foods had detectable pesticide residues. Three-quarters of organic crops had none. And among the one-quarter of organic samples that did test positive, levels of pesticide contamination were far lower.” Biologist Sandra Steingraber, PhD, provides another telling example: “Organophosphate insecticides kill by attacking the nervous systems of insect pests. They are frequently used in fruit and vegetable farming. A 2003 study measured levels of these chemicals in the urine of pre-school children living in Seattle. Children with conventional diets had, on average, nine times more organophosphate insecticides in their urine than children fed organic produce.” Pesticides are poisons and children fed organic food have lower residues of certain pesticides in their bodies than children fed conventionally grown food. The same threat exists for farmers. A National Cancer Institute study showed that farmers exposed to chemical herbicides had a six times greater risk of contracting cancer than farmers who are not. In California, reported pesticide poisonings among farm workers have risen an average of 14% a year since 1973. Pathogens: Due to a lack of education about organic food and standards, 2006’s reports on the E coli spinach outbreak hastily and erroneously mentioned organic. Organic standards require either that animal manures be composted or that two non-food rotations be grown on a manured site before it can be used for small crops. In fact, a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report concluded that the superior management practices of organic agriculture reduce E. coli and mycotoxin infections in food: "It can be concluded that organic farming potentially reduces the risk of E. coli infection. . . . Two studies reported by Woess found that aflatoxin M1 levels in organic milk were lower than in conventional milk. . . . As organically raised livestock are fed greater proportions of hay, grass and silage, there is reduced opportunity for mycotoxin-contaminated feed to lead to mycotoxin-contaminated milk."
8. More Nutritious
Locally grown food is freshest and, therefore, more nutritionally complete. The following is taken from The Benefits of Organic Food by Andre Leu “A scientific study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993 clearly showed that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. Organically and conventionally grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat and sweet corn were purchased over two years in the western suburbs of Chicago, and then analyzed for mineral content. The organically grown food was on average 63 percent higher in calcium, 73 percent higher in iron, 118 percent higher in magnesium, 178 percent higher in molybdenum, 91 percent higher in phosphorus, 125 percent higher in potassium, and 60 percent higher in zinc. In addition, The organic food was on average 29 percent lower in mercury than the conventionally raised food. A peer-reviewed scientific article published in the February 2003 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry stated that organically grown corn, strawberries and marionberries have significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods. Some of these compounds, such as flavonoids, are phenolic compounds that have potent antioxidant activities. Many are produced by plants in response to environmental stresses, such as insects or competing plants. They are protective compounds that act as a plant's natural defense and also have protective properties in human and animal health. Two comprehensive studies have been published that compared the differences between organic and conventional foods. Both studies analyzed around 40 previously published studies. One study was conducted in the United Kingdom and the other in the United States, each independently of the other. Both studies came up with similar conclusions that there is overwhelming evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. One of the authors stated, "On average our research found higher vitamin C, higher mineral levels and higherphyto nutrients, plant compounds which can be effective against cancer. There's also less water in organic vegetables, so pound-for-pound you get more carrot for your carrot."”
7. More Selection
Because most CSAs strive for a wide variety and ecological diversity, over the course of the season CSA Farmers typically grow more vegetable varieties than found at a grocery store. You’ll enjoy and discover more vegetable varieties than you might otherwise buy. Get ready for leeks, celeriac, edamame, garlic scapes and chicory, among other diverse goodies.
6. The Price of Our CSA and the Real Cost of Food
Because your food dollar goes directly to the farmer instead of paying distributors, trucking companies, advertisers, and ConAgra’s lobbyists, CSAs offer high quality produce at or below retail cost. A 2008 half share amounts to approximately a grocery bag of vegetables for about $15 per week. A study at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at UW Madison compared CSAs and other markets (ex. Grocery Store) and found that while costs varied depending on the CSA and market, overall costs were comparable and “some CSA members may realize significant financial savings as well”. This was just based on the vegetables and did not include newsletters, farm celebrations, and you-pick days. Most CSAs provide organic vegetables which typically cost 10 to 40% more than conventional produce, at a price equivalent to conventional produce. On a CSA farm, members share the full costs of food production and local, sustainable agriculture. The CSA movement aims to educate consumers that supermarket prices do not reflect the real costs of our industrial agricultural system. These costs include packaging, waste disposal, soil erosion and groundwater contamination, pollution caused by long-distance transport, exploited farm workers, and government subsidies which, according to the Heritage Foundation, will cost the average American household $1,805 in taxes over the next decade and primarily benefit industrial factory-farm type agriculture. All of these costs may seem hidden or external from what you pay at the grocery store, but are very much a part of the cost of your food.
5. Education and the Farmer to Family Connection
What is organic? How does government policy affect agriculture and the environment? What do I do with my vegetables when I receive my share? How do I store them? How long will they stay fresh? How can I use them for dinner tonight? What do worms do for the soil? How do beneficial insects replace pesticides? Answers to these questions will be explored in the up coming farm season as you and your children learn new things about how and where your food is grown. For the past 100 years most Americans have been increasingly distanced from their food. A CSA is a link between a rural farmer and an urban family. The farm helps bring families to the land. You can look into the eyes of the person who grew your food and enjoy a more personal interaction in the process. The CSA serves as a rural gathering place to share events on the farm and reconnect yourself to your food.
Experience fun on the farm with harvest festivals, potlucks, barn dances, hay rides, field days, and more. Let the kids play with the animals and shoot hoops in the haymow while you enjoy great food and great people. Put the culture back into agriculture.
3. The Environmentalism of a CSA Food Miles and Efficiency
While industrial agriculture is often cited for its “efficiency” local food uses less fossil fuels. Only about 10% of the fossil fuel energy used in the world’s food system is used for producing food. The other 90% goes into packaging, transporting and marketing. Locally produced food is more energy efficient with the majority of the energy use going into food production and on a small scale CSA such as ours many thing s that would be mechanized on a larger farm are done with hand tools such as weeding, planting and harvesting. According to the Leoplod Center for Sustainable Agriculture, “food miles’ are the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed by the end user. As you can imagine CSAs have dramatically fewer food miles than conventionally grown produce purchased at a grocery store. In the Leopold Center’s recent comparison of conventionally and locally grown produce in Iowa the average bunch of conventionally grown carrots traveled 1,838 miles as opposed to locally grown carrots, which traveled 27 miles. The average conventional food we eat travels over 1500 miles while local food averages 30. According to the Center for Food Safety, “shipping a strawberry from California to New York requires 435 calories of fuel but provides the eater only 5 calories of nutrition.”Biodiversity - As biological diversity is threatened by modern industrial systems and sprawl, so, to the diversity of domesticated plants and animals is threatened by the modern industrial agricultural system. Since the turn of the 20th century, 97% of fruit and vegetable varieties have become unavailable commercially and replaced by only a few uniform varieties. The conventional agricultural system relies on only 20 major crops for 90% of the food grown and marketed. As the number of species used for food crops declines, genetic diversity and future options for the development of plant and animal strains are reduced. Potatoes provide an illustrative example. There are more than 5,000 varieties of potatoes known worldwide, of which Andean farmers alone cultivate more than 3,000 varieties. In contrast, only four varieties of potatoes account for over 75% of the crop grown in the U.S. The top ranking potato is the Russet Burbank, which is favored by Macdonald’s for its French fries. Potatoes, especially the Russet, are vulnerable to potato beetle and blight, but Macdonald’s demands consistency and replicability in its fry, as a result farmer’s must apply more and stronger fungicide to ward off late blight rather than switch to cultivars that have higher resistance. CSA farms are extremely diverse growing 30 to 50 different types of crops and hundreds of different varieties. Pesticide, Herbicide, and Fertilizer Runoff –Every year the Mississippi river - which drains 41% of the United States - dumps 1.6 million tons of nitrogen in the Gulf of Mexico, three times as much as 40 years ago. This fertilizer run off, flowing down rivers to the sea has created a dead zone covering 7,000 square miles roughly the size of New Jersey. Most of this runoff comes from the highly productive corn belt. The nutrients feed blooms of algae and phytoplankton. The algae drain oxygen from the water, as do the decomposing bodies of the plankton, when they fall to the seabed and die. It hits a fishery that provides one-fifth of the country's entire harvest from the sea. As a result, catches of brown shrimp, the gulf's most important species, have dropped since 1990. Pesticides runoff in a similar manner and have been connected to fish kills, mutations in amphibians, and increased hormone levels in drinking water. Most CSA’s use organic compost and cover crop rotations to build the soil thus avoiding much of the nutrient runoff and do not use pesticide or herbicide.
2. Buying Locally is Better for Your Community
Three main factors account for the difference in community payback: Local Giving - Because local business people and farms live where they do business they are much more involved in it. This contributes to the fact that local businesses give 0.4 percent of their gross revenue to charity. That's four times as much, relative to overall sales, as Wal-Mart gave to charity in 2002, and twice as much as Target gave. Local Buying - Locally owned businesses make more of their own purchases locally. Local businesses bank with locally owned banks, they purchase some inventory from local manufacturers, advertise in local newspapers, and hire local accountants, printers, internet service providers, and repair people.The Multiplier Effect - More of the profits of locally owned businesses recirculate in the community. Economists call this the multiplier effect. Three recent studies (in Austin, Texas, Chicago, and Maine) compared locally owned businesses with nationally owned book stores as far as their impact on their local economies. $100.00 spent at a national retailer yielded a return of between $15.00 and $40 to the local economy. However when that same $100.00 is spent with a local retailer it returns between $45.00 and $68 of income to the local economy. When further defined, these returns from the national chain store were usually in the form of lower-level service sector wages.
1. Support the Economic Democracy of Small Farming
We can have an agricultural system where 1 factory farmer controls 3500 rBGH cows, exploits 50 mostly immigrant workers, and pollutes the watershed because their ocean of manure is viewed as a matter of disposal OR we can have an agricultural system where 60 families control 60 organic cows each with family labor and views their manure as precious fertilizer to build the soil of their pasture. By supporting small family farms you are fostering the broad-based independent decision making of economic democracy and a more sustainable agriculture. You are helping to break up the concentration of power and making room for values beyond the bottom line. You are supporting an economic system where more people can have meaningful control of their lives and something of their own, an empowering space in an interdependent world.
- Washington Apple Study Finds Organic Growing Is Best By EMILY GREEN, Times Staff Writer http://www.organicconsumers.org/Organic/orgapples.cfm
- The Organic Manifesto of a Biologist Mother Sandra Steingraber, PhDhttp://www.organicvalley.coop/culture/moomom/organicmanifesto/index.html
- Why Organics http://www.westsideorganics.com/wso/why_organics/
- FAO (2000) Twenty Second FAO Regional Conference for Europe, Porto, Portugal, 24-28 July 2000 Agenda Item 10.1, FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY AS AFFECTED BY ORGANIC FARMING
- The Benefits of Organic Foodby André Leuwww.ofa.org.au/papers/The%20Benefits%20of%20Organic%20Food%20paper.doc
- CSA: More for your money than fresh vegetables John Hendrickson and Marcy Ostromhttp://www.cias.wisc.edu/archives/2001/01/01/csa_more_for_your_money_tha...
- Stoney Acres Farm 2007 CSA Season Half Share Cost www.stoneyacresfarm.net
- The Heritage Foundationhttp://www.heritage.org/Research/Agriculture/BG1538.cfm
- Local Ownership Pays Off for Communities By Jennifer Rockne Jeff Milchen, 2003