I usually do not think about gardening until early March. This year with the warm winter, I have not only thought about gardening in January, I have actually still been able to spread horse manure on my beds! The downside of the warm winter is that the old hay and straw I used to mulch the main garden plot have not composted and still resemble straw and hay for the most part. However I am not complaining about the warmth.
One of the reasons I moved back to the East from New Mexico was that I love to grow things and it’s next to impossible to do that in New Mexico. Though the high desert landscape is beautiful in many ways, it is certainly not verdant. I grew up in the South and I always felt like a bit of an exile every Spring in the Southwest. I feel more at home in the farmland of Berks County Pennsylvania.
Actually my interest in gardening has been stimulated in the last few years by my efforts to get my family on a regimen of eating more organic items. When I first became motivated to eat in an organic mode, I had no idea that it would turn out to be a project that would span years. It is not easy to find organic produce at affordable prices. In this regard living in farm country is more than a chance to engage in the beloved pastime of gardening, it means that I can grow more vegetables at home and that fresh, organic produce is much more readily available on a larger scale.
Recently I was listening to the podcast of a radio show on gardening called You Bet Your Garden with Mike McGrath. The topic was the “Dirty Dozen”; the 12 vegetables and fruits that are the most contaminated with pesticides. What got my attention was that, according to McGrath, it is possible to cut out almost 80% of one’s pesticide exposure by avoiding these 12 items or eating only items of these that are organically grown. That may sound hard to believe, but here is a link to the podcast. It is the one on January 7, 2012 entitled “How to Lower Your Pesticide Exposure”.
This brings me to the most important thing I want to share, my discovery of community supported agriculture or CSA.
CSAs are farms that focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community. They often use organic farming methods and have what is called a “shared risk membership–marketing structure”.
The basic idea is that the farmers establish a consumer group that buys annual shares in order to get quality foods. Those who hold a share get a weekly supply of items that are being harvested. The CSA I am joining offers both full and ½ shares and members can either pick up their produce at the farm or go to a drop off point in town.
I am really excited about the prospect of belonging to a CSA not only because of the chance to get organic produce but also to be part of a community that is buying local and trying to have an impact on the widespread use of pesticides in our food. Below is a link to a site called Local Harvest which has lots of information on CSAs. There is a zip code directory to help anyone find a local CSA as well as tips for how to check out a CSA farm when you find one.