CSA: Healthy food, Healthy Community

This year I made a decision, at the prompting of a good friend, to take a share in the Bare Foot Garden,  a CAS in Macomb, Illinois.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  The attraction initially was the time I could spend with friends and having fresh, organic produce which is sometimes difficult to find in the area.  But as the season went on, I realize what I was participating in was something bigger.

After a few weeks, I realized what was motivating me to go out to the garden each week was the magic to watching things grow, thing that were beautiful, delicious and nutritious.  Each week John Curtis takes the time to show us what is ready to harvest and I can see the pride he takes in what he is growing.  Disappointments that come with weather, animals, pest all weigh on him.  His responsibility to us as share holders and friends is what is key to why he has such a loyal following.

The food that I bring home each week took on an unexpected meaning. Thinking that food could have “meaning” was a strange thing.  The food that John grew “for me” held greater important in my mind.  His care and efforts made me want to use the food well.  His responsible approach instilled a sense of responsibility on my part, too.  I explored new recipes, tried new vegetables, and tried not to waste any of this food that was what seemed like a labor of love.

The CAS concept originated in Germany, Switzerland and Japan in the 1960s and founds its way to the United States in 1984.  Today there are over 2,000 gardens operating in the our country.  Barefoot Garden use the typical model of paying for a share per growing season.  John has been able to extend the growing season using hoop houses  ad provides fresh produce from May until the end of December.  After getting accustom to having fresh produce, the winter months seem very uneventful in my kitchen.

In a time of concern about obesity, I wonder if having a closer relationship to those who grows our food and knowing how it is grown could be part of a remedy.  There is no doubt that belonging to a CSA is a time commitment.  Limited time is often the argument for eating pre-packaged or fast foods.  But doesn’t slowing down, cooking and enjoying your food shift the emphasis from being obsessed with food and to creating a positive, relationship with food. This, I think, is a learned habit and I am pleased to see John make the garden so family friendly.  It is not uncommon to see a child at the garden picking and eating sugar snap peas or strawberries.  Learning to enjoy fresh food is an essential practice to learn.