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The Hidden Benefits of a CSA Membership

Updated on November 12, 2015
A variety of tomatoes grown on La Vista Farm
A variety of tomatoes grown on La Vista Farm | Source

Joining a Community-Supported Agriculture model farm means more than getting your hands on fresh, locally grown vegetables for 27 weeks. Membership in a CSA brings with it a sense of community, a feeling of reconnecting with the land and an opportunity for respite from the busyness of our lives.

When you become a member of a CSA, you agree to support the farmer in his or her endeavors while accepting both the rewards and the risks of the growing season. Without a doubt, in good years there is an abundance of produce. One August week in 2009, my CSA provided each shareholder with 35 tomatoes bursting with the sweet taste of summer. We gathered quarts of green beans from the U-Pick field and brought home bouquets of cut wildflowers.

In the less bountiful years we can be satisfied knowing that whatever we receive has been produced using sustainable growing methods without traveling hundreds of miles to reach us.

But there are benefits to being a member of a CSA that go beyond receiving luscious organic vegetables every week. Fostering a sense of community is equally important. I’ve been a member of La Vista CSA in Godfrey, Illinois for about five years. During that time, I’ve marked the passing of each growing season by our shareholder gatherings: The Welcome and Orientation in May; the occasional barbecue in June; the August Tomato Fest with its tomato-themed games and recipe contest; and the Harvest Party that signals the closing of the season in November. Each is designed to bring members together, sharing food and fellowship in a celebration of what the land has to offer us.

Shareholders joined together to make short work of the garlic harvest
Shareholders joined together to make short work of the garlic harvest | Source

Our CSA expects shareholders to volunteer three hours a month to support the farmer, whether that is through office work, fieldwork, publicity efforts or other ways that make use of their talents. When shareholders actively participate in ways that are meaningful to us, we have the satisfaction of knowing we contributed directly in growing some of the food we eat. We also gain a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves as we provide nutritious food for members of La Vista and the surrounding community. One of La Vista’s missions is to offer a percentage of our shares to low-income members in the area as well as to share excess produce with the local food pantry. Doing so brings the fight against hunger to a local level.

As society has become increasingly urbanized and fast-paced, there’s been a corresponding increase in our disconnection with nature. Recent studies show that even small-scale contact with the natural world – gardens, tree-lined streets, pocket parks – provides mental, physical and spiritual benefits, including feeling less stress and restored mental clarity. For some shareholders, supporting the farmer means nothing less than helping with the weekly sowing, weeding and harvesting. There is joy in digging into sun-warmed earth, sowing seeds that will eventually yield a bountiful harvest

Lane leading into La Vista
Lane leading into La Vista | Source

Located on private property, La Vista offers shareholders a break from the frenetic activities of our lives, the to-do lists that never seem to end. Once I enter its gate and drive down the lane, I’m in a completely different state of mind. I automatically reduce my speed and turn down the radio. Picking vegetables in the field with the soft buzz of insects and birds’ songs in the background is almost an act of meditation as my mind quiets and I search for just the right-sized okra pod hiding among the stalks.

I feel blessed to be part of La Vista, especially because we came so close to shutting it down in 2010. As a member of its board of directors and chair of the search committee for a new farmer in 2009, I was among several who were faced with the dilemma of how to keep the farm operating in 2010. Fortunately, we hired a couple in February who brought with them boundless energy and new ideas.

As the 2010 season comes to an end, I’m already looking forward to the benefits La Vista will bring me in 2011 – the tangible as well as the intangible.

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    • Danette Watt profile image
      Author

      Danette Watt 7 years ago from Illinois

      Thank you for your vote Happyboomernurse. It's a growing movement and rightly so. I hope you are able to take advantage of something similar where you live.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      You made the spirit of La Vista CSA come to life in this hub and the picture of it made me want to walk down that lane with you! Thanks for sharing this useful information about Community Supported Agriculture and all the benefits it provides for participants, their families and the community.

      I voted this hub up and beautiful because it has the potential to change the way people acquire their produce.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 7 years ago from Michigan

      What a great community to be a part of. I try to buy local and feed my family as much "clean", organic, fresh foods as possible. I don't think people realize the kind of things that they are putting into their bodies when they eat. Great job, I enjoyed your article.

    • profile image

      Danette Watt 7 years ago

      Thanks BKCreative. What a wonderful experience that must have been, to have a farmer's market within walking distance.

      I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      The CSA has become very popular here in NYC - because we have been subjected to so much garbage - sold as food here. Yikes! Finally, we are realizing that we are not only responsible for our health - but we can effect change. Yay! During the summer we even had a youth farmer's market set up a block away from my home - run by young people in the community - so they can learn about healthy food and be entrepreneurs as well. It was so amazing to walk towards this farm stand and actually smell the fresh food wow! It was exciting!

      Great to meet you by the way!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Danette, I noticed that your profile photo is not showing up next to comments you leave for me. ??? Check it out. D

    • Danette Watt profile image
      Author

      Danette Watt 7 years ago from Illinois

      Denise, thanks for the thumbs up. I noticed your recommendation on your FB and I appreciate that. We're just different kinds of writers, that's all...

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Danette, You wow me with your writing. I voted it 'up' and also shared it by posting it on my FB page. You blow any of my work out of the water, LOL.

    • Danette Watt profile image
      Author

      Danette Watt 7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Penny! As I said, I guess I really didn't appreciate La Vista until we came close to losing it this year. It really is a beautiful place.

    • profile image

      penny 7 years ago

      thanks for identifying the numerous and nurishing benefits of CSA membership and so beautifully describing the integrated enrichment of sustaining a local farmer and fields. the fresh produce is delicious and the commraderie is beyond compare. thank you for keeping la vista csa alive

    • Danette Watt profile image
      Author

      Danette Watt 7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Robyne. I'm so glad Penny persuaded me to join back then.

      Gwen - Not sure where you live, but there are CSAs all over the country. Find one near you from the first link on my Hub and pay them a visit. If you find the price daunting, you can always do what I do and "share a share".

      Christa - thanks for the compliment.

    • profile image

      Christa 7 years ago

      Great job. Love it.

    • profile image

      Gwen O'Brien 7 years ago

      I think we (I) don't know enough about it.

    • profile image

      Robyne O'Mara 7 years ago

      Danette has brought LaVista to life in this artical. It's all she says and more. I really don't understand why more people are not seeking out CSA's. The food is safe,healthy, grown in a sustainable manner and as far as cost it's a bargin.

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