9 good reasons to join a local CSA (and how to sign up!)

The Cape Town Spring CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project is starting next week (delayed by a week) – and still has a few places for members.

A little recap for anyone who hasn’t heard me waxing lyrical about CSA’s before:

WHAT IS A CSA?

A CSA is a partnership between an agricultural or artisan producer and a group of consumers. The consumers sponsor the production of a specific crop or product at the beginning of the CSA, and during the season, the producer responds with frequent reports on that crop’s development and growth, and the consumers can visit the producer to learn more about how crop is grown, and even help with the harvest. The harvest is divided between all the members during the course of the season. Possible CSA products could include vegetables, fruit trees or grassfed beef from an entire steer.

The point of running a CSA (and a cornerstone of the Slow Food ethos) is to reconnect consumers with agricultural producers, and make urban dwellers aware of the lifecycles implicit in growing and producing the food we eat.

Joining Cape Town’s local CSA has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.  It’s not just the uber-fresh, still-gleaming vegetables that I look forward to picking up every week, or even the knowledge that what I was eating was grown nearby and didn’t have to be trucked/flown in from somewhere far away (though both are huge factors).

More than that, it’s the fact that by being part of it means I am connecting with the farmer who works the land on my behalf.  I feel I am, in my own small way, taking matters into my own hands by investing in someone who treats the earth right, someone who loves the vegetables he grows… someone who is putting life back into the soil.

If, however, you haven’t experienced this frabjous bounty, and are still unsure as to whether to sign up – here are some pretty compelling reasons to get to it:

  1. It tastes better. Not only is the food from a CSA fresher, because it was picked that very morning instead of being thrown into cold storage and shipped from pillar to post, in this case it is also organically grown.  I’m no scientist, so I can’t give you all the ins and outs as to why organic produce almost always tastes better than the conventionally-grown variety, but I’m going with my tastebuds on this one!
  2. It’s more nutritious.  The soil in which organic vegetables are grown is nurtured instead of being blitzed by various bug-nuking toxins.  It is rich in micro-nutrients that petroleum-based fertilisers wipe out.  The better the food the veggies get, the better they are for us, and the healthier we will be.
  3. It’s safer. Pesticides are toxins.  Would you spray a can of doom on your food, wash it, then eat it?  Of course not (unless you’re particularly special).  CSA vegetables are free from poisonous pesticides – which is safer for you, and safer for all the other inhabitants that share space on this crazy planet.
  4. It’s convenient.  Picking up your week’s worth of fresh veggies from one location means fewer trips to the supermarket, and less wandering the soulless aisles.  I don’t know about you – but that’s pretty high on my list of priorities.
  5. It’s fun! You never know exactly what you’re going to get, which means you’re bound to be doing some experimenting in the kitchen.
  6. It builds community.  Because you’re supporting small farmers, you are giving them a chance to invest in their business, which allows them to grow and to foster their community.  And, just by being a CSA member, you also become part of a group, connected to the land on which your food is grown.
  7. It connects you with the earth.  We urbanites have become rather detached from the earth.  Our food often comes from far away, grown in soils we’ve never laid toes upon, or in hydroponic nurseries which have never even seen soil.  There is something about the smell of good rich soil that makes a person deeply content.  For real – try it some time.
  8. It costs less, but the farmer gets more.  In this crazy world, the farmer who creates the food so often gets only a fraction of the cost we pay for it.  With a CSA there are no cut-taking middlemen, there’s no long-distance travel, no expensive cooling is required: you’re buying direct from the farmer.  Not only that, the cost to the earth (even more important) is far lower as well.
  9. Farm visits.   This is probably my favourite part – with a CSA you get to go and see where your food is growing and meet the person who’s creating it for you.  These small farmers love their work, and their passion shines through.

Convinced yet?  I hope so!

So, the details… here’s what the 2009 Spring Season CSA is all about, in a nutshell:

  • One small, organic farmer, Erick Zenzele
  • A weekly veggie bag containing a constantly changing selection of SIX vegetables
  • Four collection points for you to choose from, at Home Baked @ Red Cherry, Klein Joostenberg Deli, Jaqui Daya Food Store and Millstone Farmstall
  • A weekly email newsletter
  • An online blog with information, links, recipes and a chance to interact with other CSA members
  • Farm outings to Erick’s farms, to meet your farmer, see the crops and learn about how they are grown
  • A total of EIGHT weeks of vegetable delights, running from Tuesday 15 September through Tuesday 3 November 2009
  • Total cost is R399, which translates to R49.88 for each week

To sign up, contact kate@slowfoodcsa.co.za and let her know you’re keen.  I hope to see you at the next farm visit!

2 Comments

  • sarah says:

    could a drop-off/pick-up site in the west coast area, e.g. table view be added?
    thanks!
    sarah

  • Kate says:

    Hi Sarah; unfortunately that is a little far for our driver, who is based with the farmer in Kraainfontein. What would make more sense is setting up a CSA for the West Coast, as it is an agricultural area. Let me know if you want advice doing so.

    Regards
    Kate, Slow Food CSA coordinator

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