Here we are in a new year, and lots of folks made resolutions to eat more healthy food in 2022. I’m no health expert, but here’s a simple fact: fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits – once harvested – immediately begin to degrade in quality. Without doubt, a head of lettuce cut yesterday and eaten today is healthier than a head of lettuce cut two weeks ago that has been bagged, shipped across the country and then sat on a grocery shelf until you bought it.
There’s nothing wrong with getting produce from big name grocery stores, and if that’s all you can afford, by all means, eating more of that in 2022 is an admirable goal. However, if you can afford a few extra dollars a week (no exaggeration), you can treat yourself and your family to vegetables, herbs and fruits that have been grown in Illinois, potentially even in your county!
So where can I find such a deal, you ask? The answer is: with a CSA membership. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The concept is this; you, the consumer, pays the farmer a membership fee, generally several hundred dollars, up-front during the late winter, for a weekly “share” (typically a bag or box) of what is most fresh, beautiful and delicious, for a period of give-or-take 20-ish weeks during the growing season. The up-front payment, in turn, helps the farmers with startup costs for the year that are otherwise extremely daunting to finance; some farms even let you pick what you want every week, instead of picking for you! It works out to a weekly amount of about $20-40, which the average being $25-30. There are even different levels of membership, depending on the size of your household, from a half share to full to double share, etc.
So, to support our small farmers, AND satisfy that New Year’s Resolution AND keep your family as health as possible during the pandemic, you should consider a CSA membership for 2022 if you have a budget of about $25 per week for fresh food. This is my 3rd year of living the CSA member lifestyle, and I’ve never felt better. CSA membership for me has meant many fond memories of my family and I in the kitchen, cooking a meal that is as great to eat as it was fun to prepare.
Do an internet search for “CSAs near me”; it’ll require a little research to find the farm that produces the things you want and offers the amount you want them in, but it is doable, and more importantly, worthwhile for everyone involved.
Frillman is the University of Illinois Extension local foods and small farms educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.
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