Eat Locally: Community-Supported Agriculture

Can joining a farm co-op change the way your family eats?

By Wendy C. Fries
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Cynthia Haines, MD

Eat five to nine servings of produce daily. It's a familiar refrain from the health care community, as familiar as the unripe tomatoes stocking supermarket bins, as recognizable as the brown-spotted lettuce in our market carts.

Even knowing that fruits and veggies are nutrient-rich, help maintain our weight, and stave off disease isn't enough to inspire many of us to tackle unripe, out-of-season or travel-weary produce.

But what if your family could enjoy local farm-grown fruits and veggies instead? Fresh goods such as lipstick-red peppers, golden tomatoes, and ghost-white eggplant, that are perhaps cheaper than those offered by supermarkets or farmers' markets?

It's this bountiful vision that has inspired many families to turn to consumer supported agriculture (CSA). Briefly defined, community supported agriculture is a way for the public to develop a relationship with a local farm.

What CSA farms offer members is unique: weekly shares of fresh-picked, in-season, locally grown, often organic produce, all for a flat weekly, monthly, or yearly fee. With some CSAs you'll pick part of the bounty yourself; others designate a pick-up spot in your area where you collect your share. Some even provide home delivery.

Originating in Japan more than 30 years ago, the CSA movement made its way to the U.S. in the late 1980s. According to Local Harvest, an online resource designed to bring together CSA farms and prospective customers, numbers in the U.S. have grown from about 50 CSA farms in 1990 to more than 1,000 currently.

Why Do People Join?