Spread out across the table was a variety of produce including persimmons, various apples, and an oddly shaped brown and orange colored object.
“It’s a humongous butternut squash,” Asali Echols tells me as I continued to stare quizzically at the crooked specimen. Asali is a Cal senior who receives a CSA box at her doorstep each week, full of fresh local fruits and vegetables like the ones on their kitchen table.
Participating in a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, is a way for community members to support local farms and receive fresh produce in return. Consumers usually pay the farms by the week or month and their money goes toward helping the farms with production. Then, once a week they can go to a specified location and pick up a box full of whatever produce is in season and growing at the farm.
Asali’s box, which she also splits with her roommate, Nadia Kurd, works a little differently. Instead of going to a drop-off site to pick up the produce, the box is delivered right to their door.
“It’s like Christmas every week,” she says as I ask more about the process. The service they use is called Farm Fresh to You, which delivers produce from Capay Organic, a farm in Capay Valley, which is about 90 miles from San Francisco.
Asali tells me that supporting the local food system is important to her. Participating in a CSA and receiving the weekly box of produce is a great way to lend support and to receive fresh, local, and healthy food.
Plus, it cuts down on traveling to buy produce at grocery stores or the farmers market and saves you more time to do other things, like cook.
“It will really expand your repertoire of cooking,” Asali tells me as she goes on to discuss some of the interesting contents of previous boxes. The farm just provides what is in season so you really have to be creative sometimes, she explains.
Cooking with all the produce also forces you to eat healthfully since there are so many fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s really good food too. Even better than the grocery store, Asali adds.
Asali considers joining a CSA a good way for college students to help out local farmers and save time and fuel on transportation needed to get to grocery stores. She says she’d also definitely recommend the Farm Fresh to You service. Although the prices might seem high, at $25 for a small box, when you split the costs among roommates or friends as she and Nadia do, it’s quite reasonable.
Shop ’til you drop
Asali appreciates the CSA box because it allows her to get local food without having to head to a store or farmers market, especially when time is limited. Even so, the farmers market can be another great outlet for purchasing local food and receiving high quality, fresh, and organic ingredients even if it means leaving the house or dorm. In Berkeley there are three a week; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays, the market is all organic. Times and locations can be found on the Berkeley Ecology Center website. You can also find listings of vendors, special events, and more.
The good news is that students at Cal who are unable to shop at farmers markets can still get special access to wholesome farmers market food at a bargain price. This is where The Local comes in.
By students, for students
The Local is a produce stand run by the ASUC Sustainability Team that is set up on Sproul every Monday from 10-2 p.m. Members get the produce they sell from the Temescal Farmers’ Market every Sunday. They receive fresh fruits and vegetables and other items that are in season from the farmers at a discounted price, often taking surplus goods off of their hands.
Not only is the produce sold conveniently right on campus, but because of the discounted prices from the farmers, The Local’s prices are greatly reduced. You can find out what’s going to be on sale and their prices on The Local’s Facebook page.
“Our goal is to increase the opportunity to buy local produce,” says Matt Quinn, a junior and conservation and resource studies major. Since The Local makes no profit, their aim is to make fresh local produce available to students at an affordable price. It serves as a place where students can support the local farming community without heading all the way to the farmers market, and in addition, the food is only traveling from the farm, a much shorter distance than a lot of the produce one might normally buy from the grocery store.
Mickey Davis, a junior and nutritional sciences major, tells me that this is The Local’s fourth year selling produce, and because they are out on Sproul consistently, rain or shine, they have been gaining customers.
As I stood by The Local’s stand watching people come and leave with fresh tomatoes, corn, and apples, I overheard a student say that his handful of fresh fruit was the best purchase of his day. With local eating made this easy and this delicious, I’m sure it was!
Sydney Mayes is a second year, intended Public Health major. She loves dark chocolate and tennis and in her spare time enjoys running, trying new restaurants, and taking pictures of food.
“Community Supported Agriculture.” National Agricultural Library. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. <http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml>.
“Farm Fresh To You.” FFTY. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. <http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/index2.php?cmd=aboutourfarm>.