Inland Empire CSA

Bethany Rogers

Eating well means different things to different people. To the gourmet, it means eating delicious food, full of complex flavor. To the health enthusiast, it means eating natural foods, low in fat, high in nutrition. The Inland Empire CSA provides a convenient way for both of these groups to eat well, while also answering concerns about our earth and environment.

Crowd gathering in front of CSA booth at Farmers Market

Photo by Melodee Leavitt

CSA stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture. Simply put, a consumer buys shares in a farm, or farms. In return for the investment, the consumer receives a box, or share of produce each week. The Inland Empire CSA is unique because it is made up of two farms, De Luz Farms and and Nursery in De Luz, that grows many tree crops such as citrus, avocado, and guava, and Sage Mountain Farm in Aguanga, that grows row crops such as potatoes, lettuce, beans, carrots and more. These two farms provide a much wider variety of produce than a single farm CSA can. The result is a weekly box of organic produce that contains an ever-changing seasonal variety of fruits and vegetables. The produce has been picked no more than 48 hours before being put in the box and usually less than 24 hours.

The impact of being part of a CSA is both very personal and far-reaching. The instant impact is the convenience of receiving perfectly fresh and delicious produce. There are no concerns about pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or genetically modified food. The box encourages healthier eating by making fruits and vegetables accessible and interesting. The foodies love it because the flavor of the produce is like nothing one can purchase in the grocery store. The healthy eaters love it because a plethora of produce is delivered nearly to the door with the extra nutritional value of food eaten within days, not weeks, of being picked.

Photo by Melodee Leavitt.

Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” encourages us to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Southwest Riverside County is home to the highest concentration of boutique and organic farms in the entire country. Consumers here have access to the best, highest quality food, arguably in the world. One has to question why we feel compelled to pay more for peaches that are out of season from Chile, when we can be eating oranges, in season from De Luz. Produce from Chile, for instance, travels over 5,000 miles to get to the grocery store down the street. A peach has to be very firm and less than ripe to make that trip unblemished. It takes a long time, and much of the nutrition has vanished by the time the fruit, which may have been off the tree and in refrigeration for two weeks, reaches the local grocery store. Compare that with an orange from De Luz, which is less than ten miles from Temecula.  The organic orange has been allowed to fully ripen on the tree, so the fruit’s natural sugar and flavors have developed. The orange is picked in the morning, when the flavor and fragrance are at its peak. It is then put into a box, along with the rest of the farm’s share for that week. It is taken to one of 30 pick up locations, and is in the consumers hands, usually before it has been off the tree for more than 24 hours. Personal health and global impact are two reasons to support a CSA. The third reason is supporting local commerce. Small farms, especially organic farms, depend on many things outside of their control for their success. The weather, crop size and many other things factor into a farm’s longevity. When consumers buy shares in a small farm, they are ensuring the farms viability. When the farms output is bigger, the shares in the box are bigger. It benefits everyone.

The Inland Empire CSA is over two years old, and has many pick-up locations, ranging from the city of Riverside down to North Park in San Diego. Temecula alone has six drop-off locations, conveniently located throughout the city.

The Inland Empire CSA makes eating well easy, no matter what your definition is.

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