For the Love of Local Food

I can’t wait for summer and all it’s sunshiny goodness. One of my favourite things about summer is visiting the farmers market and admiring all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. Lately I’ve been fantasizing about heirloom tomatoes, fresh corn and Okanagan peaches. My fruit and veggie fantasies have only been made worse by my trip to the Winter Farmers Market several weeks ago and it’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) fair. I gathered a small collection of pamphlets on CSA’s offered by various farms, and have been eagerly researching which one I want to join.

For those who are unfamiliar with CSA, it’s a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farm. A farm will offer a certain amount of shares to the public early in the season (often around February) and anyone who’s interested can purchase a share in advance. This early payment helps with the farms’ cash flow, and in return, the shareholder receives a weekly box of produce throughout the farming season. Often the produce is picked that morning, and is delivered and ready to be taken home that same afternoon. CSA’s aren’t just limited to produce, but can also include eggs, bread, meat, fish, and other products.

As if the thought of fresh, weekly produce weren’t exciting enough, there are several reasons why it’s important to support local agriculture. First: minimizing your carbon footprint. On average, a North American meal travels 2,400 km from field to plate and contains ingredients from 5 different countries. A study conducted by Toronto’s Food Share found that the average imported meal created 100 times more greenhouse gases than a farmers’ market meal! Second: nutrition. Local food is often more nutritious, and far more delicious. Imported food is picked before it’s ripe, meaning the flavour, colour, and nutrients aren’t fully developed. There is also further nutrient loss as the fruits and vegetables sit for long periods of time.  Once it reaches its destination, some produce is artificially ripened by exposing it to ethylene gas, making it look more appealing to customers. Third: Deliciousness. The taste of a farm-fresh tomato has no parallel. None. I promise.

So there you have it. Supporting local agriculture cuts down on your carbon footprint, provides you with more nutritious food, and contributes to food security and your local economy. And if you can’t make it out to the farmers market each week, try to purchase BC produce when you’re shopping at the grocery store. One farm that’s offering CSA shares this year put it well when they said:

As agriculture in our country becomes dominated by multinational corporations, small-scale diversified farms, with their commitment to place and community, dwindle each year…[supporting local agriculture gives] the satisfaction of knowing where and how their food is grown, of having a tangible connection to the land through the farm (and farmers), and of contributing to the health of their local community.

If you’re interested in joining a CSA, check out this list for some participating farms: