Today, we're talking about finding local farmers markets and CSA programs. Buying local is a great way to eat fresh produce and support areas farmers.
Last week, we discussed how to find real foods and save money on them at the supermarket. Shopping at a grocery store is all about convenience. These types of stores are great for getting all of your food shopping in one place. Many are open late, if not 24 hours for your convenience. When sticking to the outside areas of the store for your produce, vegetables, bakery, dairy, and meats, you have a better chance of finding those real food items you want to feed your family. The down side of shopping there is you can be easily distracted by all the “food-like” products. You also don't know how fresh their food is or where that food is from.
For non-organic or conventional foods, you have no idea what went into growing that produce or what, if any, pesticides were used. With certified organic foods, you know that your food has met strict criteria to be certified. According to the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmer), this includes that your organic food is produced without using harmful or toxic pesticides, sewage sludge or petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from un-cloned animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
You do have other options when it comes to buying real food for your family. Let's look at resources helping you with finding local foods.
FOOD COOPERATIVES or FOOD CO-OPS
Food cooperatives are worker or customer owned businesses or organizations that provide grocery items to their members. Coops can take the shape of retail stores or buying clubs. All food coops are committed to consumer education, product quality, and member control, and usually support their local communities by selling produce grown locally by family farms.
What Is A Coop?
In the loosest sense, a co-op is any voluntary organization made up of individuals or organizations formed for their mutual benefit. A familiar non-food example is a group of roommates who rent an apartment together to save money.
The food co-op I belong to is made up of producers and customers throughout the state. Producers list what they have available each month. Orders are placed online and the products are distributed around various pick up locations.
What are Buying Clubs?
These are (generally) informal organizations of friends, members of church groups, etc. who buy food together from a food co-op warehouse. Typically, each area/region has a contact person who organizes and coordinates placing the order, its delivery, and distribution.
I haven’t been a part of a buying club. However, I have known several families that have. It is a great way to get quality products at a bulk discount without having to buy in bulk. A few of the national buying clubs distributors I’m aware of include:
Bulk and natural foods
Tree of Life
Full-line natural foods wholesaler
United Natural Foods (UNFI)
Full-line natural foods wholesaler
COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA)
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a popular way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.
Here’s a CSA in a nutshell: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief…
Advantages for farmers:
1. Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
2. Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
3. Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
1. Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
2. Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
3. Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
4. Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
I belonged to CSA programs in the past. The one I belonged to last summer and fall saved me an average of $10-$20 a week. For $25 a week, I received a large selection of fresh vegetables and fruit. Some programs offer addition items like dairy, bread, and farm eggs.
SITES TO HELP YOU FIND RESOURCES IN YOUR AREA
Find local, sustainable, organic in your area. You can search my city, state, or zip code. Within 20 miles of my home, there were 33 resources available.
Organic Consumers Association is a non-profit organization that focuses issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. Their website offers a “Get Local!” feature that helps you find local farms, businesses, local news, and events in the US and Canada.
Local Harvest has the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, co-ops, farmers markets, etc. The site allows you to search for sustainability grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
Click the map or your state to find organic, markets, grocers, online shopping and more. Make sure you like their Facebook page for other great resources.
One of my Garden Beds last October
GROW YOUR OWN
Another alternative to shopping is growing your own food. Whether it's a window planter of herbs to a full vegetable garden, you can grow your own food. All you need is sunshine, a little dirt, seeds, and time. Growing your own is the cheaper way to get real food, but it's also the most time-consuming. I'm not going to go into how to grow your own food. You can Google that yourself.
As for me, I do have a garden and a few backyard chickens. The chickens provide us with fresh eggs and fertilizer. In my garden, I grow everything from herbs to bok choy. I find that when I involve the kids in the garden, they are more likely to eat what we grow. I plan to try some vertical gardening this year. Here is a post I did regarding some of the ideas I want to try.
Do you belong to a CSA or co-op? What has your experience been? If you garden, what do you grow? I would love to hear what you do. Please post your comments below.
- Save Money at the Supermarket While Eating Real Food (littlefamilyadventure.com)
- Real Food 101 Part 3: GMOs and How to Avoid Them (littlefamilyadventure.com)
- Eat local…Community Supported Agriculture (cleanandgreennutrition.wordpress.com)
- Why You Should Join A CSA This Year (farmfoodieandfitness.com)