Throughout my journey towards more healthful and natural living, I have paid quite a bit of attention to nutrition. I have done enough reading and researching to know that fresh, whole, unprocessed foods were good for my digestion, my weight, my skin, my mood, and even for better hormone regulation which is so important considering the effects of PCOS (you can read more about my battle with PCOS here). The importance of healthy nutrition is not hot news: every health expert out there has shouted it from the rooftops. From the Paleo movement and ReWilding practices by Daniel Vitalis, to the clean eating programs by Food Matters TV founders James and Laurentine, to sugar-free approaches of JJ Virgin, and many others – we now know to avoid processed foods and eat whole, natural ones instead. If it has more than five ingredients and has a shelf life longer than you do – toss, if at some point it had a mom and a dad – keep. Many of us are also trying to be good by doing “perimeter shopping” – purchasing foods on the perimeter of a supermarket (which are usually vegetables, meats, poultry, dairy products) while avoiding the aisles (stuffed with pasta, cookies, breads, condiments, and all sorts of heavily processed stuff). While this may seem like a good effort in being healthy and supporting our nutrition, unfortunately we may be doing a lot less good than we think we are.
If you think about the produce obtained from the supermarket and the way it is obtained and delivered to the final consumer – you will realize the inherent flaws. Most fruits and vegetables come to the grocery stores from areas sometimes up to 2000 miles away. For that to happen, produce is picked when it is still growing and accumulating nutrients from the soil and the process of photosynthesis. This unripe produce is then being transported to distribution centers, spending days in transit. By the time these fruits and vegetables arrive to the shelves of your neighborhood Kroger or Wal-Mart, they would have already spent a week or so off the tree or out of the soil. Now add the couple of days it takes before they get picked up by the customer, plus up to a week on the shelf of your refrigerator, and you get a span of time in which produce loses most of its nutritional value. If fruits and vegetables start slowly dying the minute they are taken off of a branch or plucked out of the dirt – then you understand that the produce you are consuming is hardly nutritious.
The next best thing is, of course, purchasing food at the farmers’ markets. It is of course less accessible (usually open only on Saturday mornings) and you have to plan your shopping carefully – if you forget to buy something, the market isn’t open like a grocery store is. It tends to be more expensive, and a lot of vendors only take cash – which is less convenient than swiping a card. But most of the produce is harvested a day or two before, eggs collected within three to four days prior, and meat produced within a week. So small inconveniences are totally worth it. Because of this, I have been a faithful attendee of the Urban Harvest farmers’ market (you can read all about my favorite spots here). But farmers’ markets still aren’t ideal: the produce some waste as it is impossible for a farmer to know how many people will come by on that particular Saturday morning. If he brings more – the remaining produce may go to waste. And we cannot have any of that, now can we?
So in my relentless search for improving nutritional options for my family while committing to a sustainable food sourcing, I came across the concept of community supported agriculture or CSA. Through CSA individuals are able to sign up for “shares” with a specific farm. Every week, the farmer harvests enough produce to fill all the prepaid “shares”, and those are being sent off directly to the customers or to the drop sites where people can pick them up. This is genius, I thought! Since the shares are prepaid – the farmers know how much to harvest, and there is no waste. The shareholders get fresh, day-before collected produce delivered to a site close to them. They receive seasonal, organic food while supporting local farmers. I was hooked on the idea and had to try it!
After some searching, I came across Loam Agronomics – an up and coming farm in the southwest outskirts of Houston. I paid them a visit and got to talk to the founders about their innovative soil-preserving approaches, the crop rotations, drainage system, and plant varieties. After only a short conversation I realized that these guys are the future of agriculture, with their loving approach to Mother Earth, caring for their share holders, and plans to turn their farm into this healthy living hub with events, food, and such. Follow this link to check them out and stay tuned for my breakdown of my shares and the nourishing foods I make out of them!