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Community farm produce fresher, healthier

Stop by Health 1st’s Wellness Wednesday table in the Children’s Hospital lobby between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 7 to receive information on community supported agriculture farmers.

by Debbie Petitpain
Dietetic Services
Everyone could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables, but if you just can’t stomach another can of soggy, salty green beans try some fresh picked ones instead. This is the perfect time of year to try locally grown, fresh picked fruits and vegetables. Some of the best ways to access fresh produce are to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), visit a farmer’s market or pick your own.
CSA is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of fresh, delicious, locally-grown produce. CSA are individuals who pledge support to a local farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm. This way, the growers and consumers provide mutual support and share the risks and benefits of food production.
Typically, members (shareholders or subscribers) of a CSA farm pay a seasonal fee to cover the anticipated costs of its operation and/or farmer’s salary, in part or in full. In return, members receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as the satisfaction gained from reconnecting with the land and participating directly in food production.
Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up-front, but some farmers will accept weekly or monthly payments. Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season. A harvest is equally distributed, no matter how productive the yield while the cost to the member does not change. This allows members to benefit from the fruits of the farm’s labor and share in the risks of farming—-poor harvests, unfavorable weather, or pests.
Farmers, who have directly sold their goods to community members in exchange for working capital, received better prices for their crops. They are relieved of much of the burden of marketing and gain some financial security.
Weekly harvests are either delivered to members or picked up by members at pre-determined drop-off points or at the farm. The weekly delivery allows members to eat foods that were picked at its peak just days before providing the highest quality, best-tasting produce available. (Produce found in the grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to fork.) The contents of the weekly delivery fluctuate with the growing season. In the Lowcountry, farms this time of year are producing strawberries, onions, broccoli, carrots, turnips, radishes, collards, arugula, many varieties of lettuce, peas, kale, yellow squash, zucchini squash, basil, and mustard greens. Some CSAs also offer flowers, milk, coffee, farm fresh eggs and fresh seafood.
A CSA season typically runs from late spring through early fall. The number of CSAs in the United States has grown from an estimated 50 in 1990 to more than 1,000 currently.
For the state listing, visit To find a CSA in other areas, visit
For the adventurous or to teach children that food comes from the earth and not plastic-wrapped Styrofoam containers, visit a near by “U-Pick-It” farm, which also tends to be cheaper than other sources, because of reduced labor costs. To find a U-Pick-It near you, visit

Editor's note: The preceding column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing numerous employee wellness organizations and committees on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide MUSC, MUHA and UMA employees with current and helpful information concerning all aspects of health.


Friday, May 2, 2008
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