Who’s your farmer?

By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Living in southwest Montana means most of the food we eat travels long distances to our tables.

Rich Pirog, associate director of Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, estimates that produce travels roughly 1,500 miles from farm to table depending on where you live and the time of year. That’s one reason why I love when summer rolls around and I get to participate in our local CSA.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Typically, a community financially supports local farms by paying them a specified amount of money at the beginning of the growing season, in return for the food they grow during the summer. This enables the farm to ready their equipment and farm for the season and frees them up from marketing to customers while they’re working 16-hour days.

Every week at a pre-arranged location you pick up your box, bag or basket of food that was harvested that day. Outside of growing your own food, this is as fresh and delicious as it gets.

In our home, we like supporting people we have a relationship with. We have been members of the Gallatin Valley Botanical CSA for six years. Owners Matt and Jacy Rothschiller operate an organic farm in Bozeman. Matt is Pam Flach’s brother, and Pam owns Big Sky’s By Word of Mouth with her husband John – BYMOM is a restaurant where my husband and I have both worked and still frequent.

Since we’re only cooking for two, we split our CSA with neighbors. This ensures that each week someone is available for pick-up and when we go out of town the food doesn’t go to waste.

Every CSA is different and they’re evolving as the demand for locally grown and raised food increases. Some CSAs offer eggs, baked goods and meats; some are cooperatives of several vendors; and others offer produce in the fall and winter.

The farms also bring their food to farmers markets regularly, so even if participating in a CSA isn’t a good fit for you, you can still buy local, fresh, organic foods weekly.

To find a CSA or farmers market anywhere in the U.S., visit localharvest.org and type in your location. They have an extensive list and offer key information to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. This is also helpful when you’re traveling.

If you want to eat healthier foods but can’t bring yourself to buy carrots at the farmers market because the organic ones at Costco are cheaper, ask yourself where you might cut corners in your regular food spending: expensive coffee or alcoholic drinks, processed snacks, deserts, meals out.

If cutting costs is not the issue, then doing your best and eating fruits and veggies grown without toxins – even if they’re frozen, wherever they may come from – works too. The key is to keep eating lots of plants.

The food system in the U.S. has become a giant industrial machine. As the food we eat is becoming increasingly toxic to our bodies and it’s production hard on the environment, it’s proving to be difficult to sustain.

An excellent way to take action is to stop supporting it with our dollars whenever possible, and start spending our money on food that is grown locally with love, using the best farming practices.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@thetahealth.com, or find more information at thetahealth.org.