Eat local for healthy communities with CSAs

Published 9:45 pm Monday, November 9, 2015

There’s an African proverb that I have on all my communications: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It’s a constant reminder to me of the power of community.

Every human being on the planet shares one of life’s most vital needs in common. We all eat. When food and community are inseparable, I’ve seen how we can use that as a vehicle to change the world.

On Nov. 4, my son, my first-born child, celebrated his 22nd birthday. It’s funny how I can’t remember details from last week, but I can remember the weather, the scents, the sounds in the room on the day my son was born. And 16 months later, my daughter. My asking where food comes from came from my desire to feed my kids real food.

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At first the only real food I was giving them was breast milk. And trust me, when you’re nursing, you know where the food is coming from! That nursing relationship led to my first spiritual awakening and like many new mothers I passionately wanted to make the best choices for my children’s health.

The first time I went out to buy solid foods for my six-month-old son, I went to a grocery store and found the aisles of pureed food products for little people. I started choosing jars based on the lovely artwork on their labels. I spun the jars around to read the ingredient lists (water, thickeners, preservatives, and, oh yeah, carrots); I tipped the jar on its side to find its country of origin, and it wasn’t mine.

I decided that day when moving forward in our lives, that we would think to ask: “Where does our food come from?” And I would hope to answer, “from its closest relationship with nature.”

I soon discovered the incredible power in my food choices and how those choices led to more purposeful relationships with my community. Each of us has the power to do this through the simple act of choosing to eat foods grown in community.

Believe it or not, I saw one of my life’s best examples of community cooperation and sustainability when we moved to Washington, D.C. In the middle of this hectic city, I met a farmer.

I spotted him in his farm truck in our preschool parking lot. He was dropping off food boxes to the moms in our preschool (he called them his shareholders because they were members of his CSA). His farm was just outside the beltway, in the fertile farmlands of Virginia.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. To become a member, you pay up front to a farm for an entire growing season which helps cover costs related to the growing, harvesting and distributing of the food. In return, you receive a regular share of the harvest.

Because so many people were looking for local, this farmer’s CSA membership was very successful. The result of that allowed him to plant a whole field of food to give away! And that brought volunteers together to join in the harvesting and deliver to local food banks and homeless shelters.

The generosity and inspiration in his story was stirring a calling in me.  I joined his CSA and shared in the great satisfaction of knowing that we were strengthening our community one meal at a time – and it was delicious!

What the farmer in D.C. gave me awakened my soul’s dream. A few years later we moved to rural WNC.   When I got here one of the first things I did was look for a local CSA program to join. I couldn’t find one, so I started one.

I quickly realized that CSAs and all things farm-related are hard work. Yet, myself as its coordinator and all the farmers who grow for our CSA community, are loving every minute of it! We, the eaters, also find it a new and different adventure in food.

Now my passion has become my profession. It’s a job I race out the door every day to get to. Because not only am I now providing the healthiest food available to my neighbors – the opportunities to participate in community are endless.

Beyond the bountiful harvests shared, CSAs serve to bring people together – from farmers to CSAs to restaurants and families. And the people receiving this local produce begin to learn more and more about their food. Which farmer did this come from? How do I cook this? And in our CSA, there is an enclosed newsletter that serves to further connect the local community, featuring upcoming local events and member spotlights in addition to yummy recipes.

CSAs are much more than a weekly delivery of food. They provide a support to local farmers and serve as a powerful investment in health, local economy and community. And ultimately that connection between farmers and shoppers is what really counts. For more information on current winter 2015-16 local organic winter CSA sign-ups contact or call 828-817-2308.