The past decade has seen an explosion in food awareness, the biggest since the green revolution in the 60’s and 70’s. The difference with the current food consciousness we’re seeing, is that we are largely trying to reverse the damage that the Green Revolution inflicted on our agricultural land and the planet as a whole. This was an intentional movement set in motion by the government to maximize food production at any cost – largely through the application of new technologies and concentrating land ownership into fewer hands – and the toll has been palpable. Huge swathes of land have lost millions of tons worth of precious top soil, waterways and aquifers are becoming more and more polluted, and more people are starving than ever.
One of the most effective ways of reining in some of this globalized insanity is by supporting local agriculture. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one of the most direct ways of obtaining locally produced food, at its peak freshness, and supporting local economies. Joining a CSA involves buying a “share” of a local farmer’s crop up front, before production actually begins. In this way, the farmer can use that up-front investment to invest in their own infrastructure and inventory, helping to ensure you actually get the share of food you purchased. Every week throughout the growing season (typically between 20-30 weeks, depending on the region) each shareholder receives a box of vegetables, usually suitable for providing all the fruits and vegetables for a family of four. Prices range from $300 – $600 a season, depending on length and quality. Some CSA’s also offer other grocery items produced on their farm, such as whole grain, bread, and eggs at additional cost.
The advantages of joining a CSA are numerous. Buying into a CSA up front almost always yields cheaper, fresher, more nutritious vegetables than you can get at your local health food store or co-op. Fruits and vegetables are harvested the day they are given to you, and you even have the opportunity to volunteer with the harvest at most farms that offer CSA’s. This is arguably the best part of a CSA – you have the opportunity to be involved with a community of people who are interested in sustainable food sources, like the farmer and other shareholders. You have the opportunity to help on the farm, get outside, and enjoy the wonders of nature at your leisure.
Joining a CSA can also help solve world hunger. There is a common misconception that by simply adopting a vegetarian diet, one is helping to solve world hunger by not supporting the inefficient transformation of grains into animal protein. For every 10 calories of grain that go into an animal, one calorie of meat makes it to the plate, with the 9 calorie difference being lost to heat. Inefficient, indeed. By abstaining from meat, then, a vegetarian is freeing up grain in the food market. That freed grain increases overall supply, which drives down cost. The price of grain drops, as a result, and is dumped onto poorer countries who can now afford it, smothering any food industry they once had, and potentially eliminating their sole source of income. With no other form of income, this can often lead to further hunger and poverty.
The true way to fight world hunger is by localizing food sources, and increasing the autonomy of local communities who can trade across short distances. The CSA structure is a simple, easy way to pump money and resources back into the local economy, rather than shipping dollars out of the area to other multi-national food conglomerates that only compound the issues of social and environmental degradation.
Becoming a vegetarian is a sure fire way of helping save the environment. By joining a CSA, you will further your positive impact on the world, and directly affect those who you love most – the folks right in your neighborhood.