Did you ever consider what it takes to get food to your table? Many things happen in the life of your food before it ever gets to you. Do you know who is making these decisions and handling your food? More people are becoming interested in the “eat local” food movement because of the growing concern in our society of the impact that food production systems have on our environment, economy and health. The sticker on your apple may tell you the country or state in which it was grown, but can you trace its origins back to the farm to learn about its growers and their practices? Being an informed and responsible consumer has become difficult in today’s convoluted food system of imports, exports, and long-distance transportation. Joining a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is one way you can become connected to your food supply and eat with confidence.
Many CSAs offer services beyond just providing you with produce. Members may receive weekly newsletters, recipes, farm updates, and have the opportunity to visit or work on the farm to see things for themselves. These are all ways to become more knowledgeable about how your food is grown and handled.
For instance, let’s consider the life of kohlrabi. This is a cool weather crop that is grown in early spring and fall. Kohlrabi is a swollen stem that grows above ground and is anchored by a long root. It is a member of the Brassica family and has a flavor similar to cabbage. Seeds are planted in the greenhouse in March. Once the ground thaws, it is cultivated and raised beds are formed. The farmers transplant the kohlrabi plants into the field. The plants are then covered with a large row cover for protection from flea beetles and to trap heat to support growth. Once the plants grow large enough, the cover is removed, and the beds may be weeded by hand or with a cultivator. When the bulbs are large enough, a crew goes out and cuts them all by hand. They are brought in from the field, washed, packed, and iced to keep them from losing moisture. They are now ready to be packed into boxes for distribution to local CSA members.
CSAs, like ours at Harmony Valley Farm, grow food that we know will become nourishment for our members, so we take care to manage the soil to maintain and augment its nutrient content to grow nutrient-dense food. Knowing the amount of work and care that goes into growing your vegetables helps to develop an appreciation for the food you eat. All the hard work comes together as vegetables are harvested, packed, and loaded onto refrigerated trucks. The boxes are delivered to various locations in a given area, and members come every week to pick up their box of vegetables. The return for the farmer goes beyond monetary gains with some of the greatest rewards being the relationships formed with longtime, committed customers who become friends.
Farmer John’s Cookbook: the Real Dirt on Vegetables, by John Peterson, Gibbs Smith Publishers, 2006.
From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm Fresh Seasonal Produce, by Madison Area CSA Coalition, Jones Books, 2004.
Viroqua, WI, 608-483-2143
Buy at your local farmer’s market, farm or join a CSA!
The Locavore Pledge by Jamie S., Eat Local Challenge Participant
If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then organic.
If not ORGANIC, then family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS,
then fair trade.