Why I Love Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Box

Why I Love Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Box. (Photo: Box saying "Fresh Vegetables" with vegetables in front of it)

Poking at his dinner, my son eats around his vegetables, going straight for the tortellini. Examining the colorful array on my plate, I ask my husband, “Is everything here from the garden or farm box?”

“Yeah, except for the sun-dried tomatoes,” he responds.

Pointing out the vegetables to my son with my fork, I say, “It’s zucchini from our garden and mushrooms and peppers from the farm box.”

He hestitates, then stabs a mushroom and puts it in his mouth. “It’s good,” he says with a full mouth.

“Isn’t it?” I say and smile.

The “farm box” is the weekly delivery we get from our community supported agriculture (otherwise known as CSA) program. For those not familiar with it, a CSA involves pre-paying at the beginning of a season for produce and sometimes other farm goods, like meat and eggs. Throughout the season, you pick up a box of food each week that the farm delivers to a specific location. LocalHarvest has a list of CSAs around the country.

While I love local food, I had stayed away from CSAs for years. The last time we subscribed to one, I was in graduate school ten years ago. Because we lived in England, it was full of root vegetables that we had no idea what to do with. Sometimes that was great. I did learn to love parsnips and still use them. Other times it was disastrous. When I tried to use up the beets, I ended up burning a borscht soup that was already pretty bad. Despite pretending “it wasn’t that bad,” it was one of the worst things I have ever eaten in my life.

This year, we thought it might be time to try a CSA again. While we love how locally-grown is fresher and connects you to the farmers, we were finding it harder and harder to get to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings.  Here’s why I’m glad that we subscribed to Bending Bridge Farm’s community supported agriculture program:

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What is Sustainability?

What is Sustainability? Sustainability is about a lot more than what we buy - it's about community. (Photo: A tree with red berries)

Pushing my son on the biggest tree swing I’ve ever seen, he declared, “This is fun!” As I half-listened to a talk on medicinal plants, I had to agree. We were at the second annual Paw Paw Festival at Long Creek Homestead, the home of a local family who grows much of their own food based on ecological principles. While we go to these events because they’re fun, it’s much more than that. I bring my family to these events so we can have a little glimpse into a possible potential, beautiful future. That’s because these kind of community events embody social and environmental sustainability to me.

Sustainability has become such a buzzword it’s easy to lose the true meaning. Companies sell us “green living” via labels on products that promise they will be safer for your family. (Never mind anyone else’s family.) But to create a just world that offers opportunities to all people in a way that’s environmentally sound, we have to go deeper.

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5 Reasons Why I Ride the Bus with My Kids

5 Reasons Why I Ride the Bus with My Kids. Riding the bus is more fun, more interactive, and more sustainable than the car! (Photo: Green and yellow RideOn bus driving down the street)

“Bursch!” my eighteen-month-old points and yells. Even though that’s his word for everything, from bikes to balls, I say, “That’s right! That’s the bus!” Perhaps he’s picking up on his older brother’s deep love of the bus. Besides the fact that he’ll actually know what the lyrics of The Wheels on the Bus are talking about, his affinity for public transit will serve him well. In fact, I actually encourage it and bring my kids on the bus with me when possible. Here’s why I skip the car and ride the bus with my kids when I can:

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10 Easy Tips to Go Green that Make a Big Difference

10 Easy Tips to Go Green that Make a Big Difference. Overwhelmed by the list of possible things to do to be more green? Check out these tips that give you the biggest bang for your time and energy. (Photos: Wind turbine in a grassy field, cloth diaper with owls on it on a table, basket of vegetables, ceiling fan)

As I scroll through the to-do list on my phone (yes, it’s that long), I breathe out a big, honking sigh. “Check to see if there’s anything else we can do from the energy audit” has been on there for more than a year. For God’s sake, that to-do item is older than my younger son. While I’m still not giving up on my dream of installing more insulation, I do like quick-hit, easy tips to go green.

In addition to drawing on my own knowledge, I asked some fellow green bloggers for their best tips to go green. Here are some ways you can get the biggest bang for the least time and effort:

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9 Ways to Make Your Visit to a Local Farm Great

9 Ways to Make Your Visit to a Local Farm Great. Visiting a local farm with kids? Be sure to prepare beforehand! (Photo: Woman and child from the back walking along a dirt road next to flowers.)

My toddler eyed the cow warily. What was this creature? Sure, it said moo, but this was so much larger than he expected! Seeing him back away, we didn’t push it. We knew he would have plenty of other opportunities to visit a local farm or two along the way.

Visiting a local farm is a great way to connect kids with their food, especially if you don’t have the ability to garden. They get to see how fruits and vegetables grow and experience real, live animals. That helps them appreciate the hard work of the people who grow their food and put more thought to where it comes from.

Plus, it’s really fun. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of picking giant blueberries and slurping strawberry smoothies at a local farm near our house.

We’re particularly fortunate because our county actually has a large agricultural reserve set aside just for farming. Since that incident, we’ve visited many farms. Here’s what we’ve learned in the process:

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Guest Post for the Washington Post (!): How gardening can help build healthier, happier kids

I love gardening so much that I nicknamed my kid after a plant. (No, Sprout is not his real name. Yes, I’ve had people ask me that.) So of course, it was natural for me to continue it when I had kids. And like all things that I both like and are good for sustainability, I love to write about it!

So I was thrilled to bits when the Washington Post accepted my piece on the science of why you should garden with your kids. As I researched the article, even I learned a lot about the benefits of getting outside, having a healthy relationship with germs, and eating fruits and vegetables.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

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When our cherry tomatoes blush red each summer, my son eagerly plucks them from the vine and pops them in his mouth. He points at random plants and proudly declares, “That one’s mine!” And occasionally, he yells in panic as the hose from the rain barrel overflows his tiny watering can.

Admittedly, gardening with kids isn’t always idyllic.

But even when it’s chaotic, it can be tremendously beneficial.

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Read more of How Gardening Can Help Build Happier, Healthier Kids over at the Washington Post’s On Parenting section!

New Green Parenting Facebook Group and Contest!

Green and Sustainable Parenting. Green Parenting Facebook Group. (Photo: Left side, child digging in a box of dirt, middle: trees, right: Children marching with a sign saying 'We march for our wild and wonderful world' on the back."

Are you a green parent or want to be one? I’ve launched a Green Parenting Facebook group just for you! Okay, not just for you, but for you and other folks like you.

The Green and Sustainable Parenting community is a group of parents and caregivers who are trying to live environmentally and socially sustainable lives. To build a clean and healthy environment for all kids, we engage in everything from lifestyle changes to political activism. We’ll be sharing thought-provoking articles, challenges, and lessons learned.

To kick it off, I’m running a contest! I’m giving away a copy of the new book Dirt is Good, about the importance of kids getting exposure to the outdoors and germs. I recently interviewed the author and his publicist sent me a copy. Head over to the Green and Sustainable Parenting Facebook group to find out more.

Here’s What We Should Do About Phthalates in Mac and Cheese Instead of Food Shaming Parents

What We Should Do About Phthalates in Mac and Cheese. (Photo: Rows of boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese on a shelf.)

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart on Flickr.

“So now we can’t eat mac and cheese. Is there anything we can feed our kids?!” That was the cry heard across the land from moms and dads who read the Scary Mommy or New York Times articles on phthalates in mac and cheese.  Both of the articles are based on a report put out by a coalition of environmental groups concerned about toxic chemicals in processed food. (If you want to be super data-geeky, here’s the actual data.)

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How We Built a Raised Bed Children’s Garden

How We Built a Raised Bed Children's Garden for Our Young Kids. Want your kids to have somewhere to dig and plant flowers? Here's how we build a raised bed to accommodate them. (Photo: Boy with a giant shovel digging in a large wooden box.)

As a child, I’d spend hours in my backyard poking around in the dirt. I’d pretend specific plants were magical and “mix” up concoctions. I could be alone with my imagination, whether under the giant pine tree or next to my mom’s garden bed.

But our yard doesn’t offer the same experience for our kids. It’s on a corner heavy with foot traffic and no clear place for them to play in the dirt. So I wanted to make them one – somewhere that was set-aside, just for them. After more than a year of planning – raising a new baby took a higher priority – we finally started building it this spring.

The children’s garden isn’t anything complicated. While there are some amazing outdoor play spaces on Pinterest, we had neither the space or need for anything that elaborate. We just wanted to build something that could hold some dirt. It’s really just a box. Or in fancy garden terms, a raised bed children’s garden.

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