Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Give Farm Fresh Produce & Help Others Too

Veteran's Garden West Los Angeles

With the holidays around the corner you might have a friend on your list that loves fresh local produce and that is an avid supporter of her local farmers' market.

Even if she is, you might want to surprise her with a very special gift, one that not only helps her to eat better, but that helps others as well.

A great option is to give her a yearlong subscription to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise. A CSA allows people to support local growers by subscribing to a farm that supplies locally grown, seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Typically, the CSA delivers weekly or bi-weekly boxes right to a customer’s front door or to a centralized location.

To give your favorite Angelino a "traditional" CSA subscription, you can join Tierra Miguel Foundation CSA. It has pick up locations all over the southern California area in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, www.tierramiguelfarm.org/csa.htm.

But, since we are in LA, we have what I will call "atypical" CSAs, those that have their own "farm" stands or locations where you can pick up the produce or that have a weekly farmer's market of their own.

But they also have something else, something I think that's even more important. Most of these city farms are also in business to help those in need, usually providing job training to youth or others, or that are in need of fresh healthy food, and subscribing to them or visiting their location can help them to thrive and grow.

One of my favorites is the Vet's Garden at the West LA Veteran's Hospital, http://www.losangeles.va.gov/patients/vetsgarden.asp. While they don't have a subscription program per se, you can buy their plants, flowers, and vegetables each Thursday at the Farmers' Market, or on Fridays at the Lobby of the Main Hospital. The Vet's Garden provides a wonderful horticulture therapy program and job training for our veterans.

Another great city farm is operated by CSU (Community Services Unlimited) http://www.csuinc.org/. CSU has a weekly farm stand on Thursdays at Exposition Park and a produce subscription program. This wonderful nonprofit has programs that provide youth of all ages experience in urban farming and in healthy eating and even has an apprenticeship program for at-risk youth where they learn not only farming and gardening, but entrepreneurship skills and leadership development.

Another great project is the Earthworks Community Farm, http://www.ewent.org/. This project is a part of the LA Conservation Corps and Earthworks provides job, life skills, nutrition and organic farming training, employment, and leadership development for youth at an organic urban farm at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte. Their produce stand operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. to Noon.

Although these options require more effort than visiting a local farmer's market, the payoff is worth it and something to consider since these urban farm models are growing and becoming much more common with the way our economy is going. Supporting them supports the green economy and green jobs of the future.

And, it just might be a great new way to spend some quality time with your friend by giving a gift that allows you to go to these places together each week and to actually see how your gift helps those in need.

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