If you’re new to farm food or still considering your first CSA membership, you may be wondering exactly what makes this food different from convention grocery store fare. Most of the answers to that question lead to more questions, so we thought we’d point you to some resources that move the information train forward.
Let’s start with a list of basic factors. This particular list comes from the University of Washington’s “Whole U” wellness initiative, but most CSA farmers would come up with similar reasons.
- Local foods are fresh.
- Local foods are seasonal.
- Local foods have a higher sustainability quotient.
- Local foods promote variety.
- Factors 1 through 4 combine to make local food considerably more nutritious than food from the industrial system.
- Local foods promote local economies.
- Local foods create community.
Many resources are available to explore those factors in more detail. We’ll point you to some of them.
This post from an organization called Local Harvest starts with the feature that initially attracts most local eaters — taste — and it makes a useful connection between taste and nutritional density. Here’s a word about the source:
This article from Scientific American discusses the alarming probability that nutritional density has been slowly bred out of most food in the industrial system. Industrial farming selects for size, growth rate, and pest resistance, not optimal nutrition. On top of that, it tends to use growing practices that damage soil, such as raising the same crops in the same fields year after year, with the help of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
“Because of soil depletion,” the authors report, “crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.”
Unlike its industrial counterpart, our soil gets better every year because we enrich it with tons of compost and nitrogen-fixing cover crops. And since our soil is strong and we’re always changing crop locations, we don’t have to select for size or pest resistance. So our fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than what you’re likely to get from industrial sources.
A note on the source: “Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 170 years.” Learn more here.
If the process of breeding nutrition out of the food supply interests you, try this article from the New York Times, which follows the process back to its earliest origins.
Check back for links to more websites as we continue to explore the question over the next few months.