My grandfather used to have a farm in Manorville, Long Island. I picked peaches from trees and collected strawberries, dropping them into empty Maxwell House coffee cans. He used to send us home with bags full of fruits and vegetables from his fields. Growing up, I never questioned where the salad on our table came from. I knew.
The idyllic image of his farm stayed in my mind for many years after, and I assumed all food came from similar farms. It wasn’t until later, reading about companies like Monsanto and watching news coverage about Ecoli and Mad Cow disease that I realized most food doesn’t. When I tried to find local food without pesticides, preservatives, and radiation I realized how limited the available amount of food really was.
And yet, it’s here. We see it in our neighbor’s backyards, on windowsills, and in the advent of greenmarkets and farm-stands right here in Queens. Just last week, Flushing announced its very first Community Supported Agriculture with Golden Earthworm Organic Farm in Long Island, offering fresh local, organic food to residents of Queens.
CSA originated from the beliefs of Rudolf Steiner and biodynamic agriculture. Steiner believed in the interrelationship between living things and that farming should be practiced holistically, taking into account the relationships between all plants, animals, and soil. Harsh chemicals and artificial products upset the natural balance between these separate but connected components, and therefore Steiner believed in organic, sustainable methods.
A CSA is a mutual agreement between local farmers and members of a community. Community members pay the farmer a fee in advance to cover production cost, and the farm then provides weekly harvest shares. In turn, the farm promises to provide key features of sustainability, fair food, labor, and environmental practices.
Members of a CSA reap all the potential rewards and losses of farming. If the farm has a tremendous growing season, produce shares are higher. If weather washes away planting fields, shares are lower. Members typically don’t choose the types of produce received each week. All members get exactly the same share for the same price. The Flushing CSA estimates shares are enough for three adults or a family of two adults and two children.
Locally grown food decreases the distance food must travel to get to our plate. A strawberry grown in Argentina may travel almost 1500 miles before it arrives in New York. Fruit would be picked before it is ripe and exposed to chemicals or light levels of radiation to prevent it from spoiling, causing potential health risks and lessening the nutritional quality. Eating local food allows us to eat food that is fresh, eliminates the need for harsh chemicals, and lowers transportation emissions.
Produce availability varies by season, offering valuable health benefits. Root crops and greens available from Golden Earthworm during winter months are nutrient-rich and help protect us from winter germs. Summer fruits like tomatoes and watermelon are high in carotenoids and lycopene, which offer the skin and eyes protection against sunlight. Great recipes for preparing produce can be found on their website.
Golden Earthworm Organic Farm offers several CSA programs in Queens, including one at Alley Pond Environmental Center. Weekly food shares can be picked up on Tuesday evenings. Membership for vegetables only will cost a little over $500.00 for the year and about $150.00 for fruit only. Vegetables are certified organic. Fruit is non-certified organic, but responsibly grown. Members are also required to volunteer for three hours each season, helping with food distribution on pick up days. For more information about joining the Douglaston food share, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
If the idea of locally grown organic food appeals to you, but the idea of a CSA doesn’t, try purchasing produce at seasonal farm stands. The Queens County Farm Museum offers a farm stand from June 1st through the end of October. The farm stand is open Wednesday through Sunday between the hours of noon and five. The Douglaston Greenmarket on 41st Ave. and 235th St. reopens July 8th and runs until Nov. 18th. The market is available on Sundays only between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
For more information, please visit the following sites:
For the Flushing CSA, email FlushingCSA@gmail.com or call 646.801.4021