By Robert Turner
In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, it can be easy to fall prey to fear about the unknown. Fear tends to surround us, fueled by what we read, hear and imagine, and our first response is the natural desire to protect our families.
But this can still be a time of hope if we can recommit ourselves to a shared belief that health and wellness, and a strong immune system, can help us fight disease and protect us from the worst effects of this virus. This is a good time to focus on building that strong immune system through healthy food, a little exercise, and some stress reduction that comes from choosing a path forward.
We have some control over our health destinies. We don’t have to live in fear. We simply need to commit to wellness in our own lives and in the lives of our families and local community. Limiting processed junk food, and consuming more healthy whole foods and fresh vegetables, can empower our minds as well as our bodies and give us some strength, confidence and control in our lives.
I do not believe that the coronavirus will cause serious, long-term food shortages in this country, but I do know that retaining the capacity to grow and source food locally is prudent behavior. I also believe that retaining the capacity to grow and source some food locally has psychological benefits. It creates positive psychological feelings of self-reliance, self-sufficiency and community strength while it contributes to healthy eating habits. Your support of farmers in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a step towards building our own community strength and food sovereignty.
As many readers know, I have written extensively about the risks of outsourcing so much of our food from foreign nations. We’re just now beginning to understand the risks that come from outsourcing so many of our critical drugs and medicines to factories in China and India. Let this be a lesson to us all. All communities across the globe need to build local and regional strength, self-reliance and resilience.
Many local growers are nervous right now. It is uncertain how the coronavirus will impact sales of local food at restaurants, and how it may impact our farmers markets. Some of these retail outlets may close for several weeks out of an abundance of caution. Almost certainly, traffic at restaurants and farmers markets will be down in the spring and perhaps into summer. This may have a serious impact on our local farmers’ ability to sell their goods, and some may go out of business.
Many local farmers may have to look for alternative retail outlets for their produce. Some may try to set up roadside stands, while others will try to sell more to local grocery stores and the restaurants that can remain open. But the best opportunity, I believe, is for us all to come together and expand our CSA programs.
In a CSA program, people buy a ‘share’ from a farmer at the beginning of the season and pick up their fresh produce (usually organically grown) at the farm or specified pick-up location every week. The cost of the fresh-picked produce is generally cheaper than organic food at the grocery store, which may come from faraway places like California or Central America. The food in a CSA program is often delivered the same day it was picked, sometimes within hours.
The food harvested does not enter crowded stores or distribution centers with lots of people. At our farm, food travels about 100 yards from the field to the packing station to the member’s car.
Generally, one person touches your food—the farmer who picked it. This is far different than produce at the grocery store, which on average came from 1,500 miles away. A CSA program can limit the risk of food contamination and encourage the new norm: “social distancing,” as difficult and awkward as that is for all of us.
If you’re interested in a CSA program this year, you can find one in the local food guide on the ASAP website at ASAPConnections.org/find-local-food/csa. At many CSA programs, like ours at Creekside Farm, if you’re out of town or don’t pick up your weekly share, it will not be wasted—it gets donated to a local MANNA FoodBank agency. And at Creekside Farm you can purchase a share just for MANNA and give the gift of healthy food to a hungry household. That is community strength!
Join a CSA and take back some control of your health destiny.
Robert Turner is director of the Creekside Farm Education Center and the author of Carrots Don’t Grow on Trees: Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities. To learn more, visit EatYourView.com.