It seems these days that everyone knows someone who belongs to a CSA. A CSA is a social and economic plan between households and local farmers where the people will pay the farmers before a specific season to have food delivered to the CSA's members on a weekly basis, while the farmer's produce is in season. Sometimes one member will drive to the farm weekly to pick up the food, then have all of the participants pick up their orders at a convenient location. There are various ways to do this. This is a fantastic way to keep your money in your city.
In Madison, there are various CSAs. Obviously, I couldn't join one when I moved here because the season usually goes from June until November, and I moved here in July. Also, a lot of single people will tell you that it is difficult enough to grocery shop for one, so I will probably forgo joining one this year. My other great dilemma, (which is a very good problem to have, may I add), is that I love going to the farmer's market. If I did the CSA, I wouldn't feel the need to buy anything at the market. Now, my witnesses will tell you that I hardly buy anything at the market as it is. As much as I like to cook, I have to be in the right mood, and my cabinets and refrigerator do most commonly resemble a bachelor's kitchen - minus the Chinese food containers.
As of now, there are thirty-four farms serving the Madison CSAs, supported by Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, and a lot of them are certified organic. My understanding of the organic certification is that the farmers have to jump through a lot of hoops to receive this official recognition, and many of them do not use any chemicals, but do not feel the need for the organic acknowledgement, so, it is sustainable, and you know where your food is coming from.
We all know about the spinach epidemic that occurred in 2006. I believe the culprit was out of California. This made me think to myself, "It's pretty scary that my food is being transported from mystery places, by unknown people." Many locals support Community Supported Agriculture for the purpose of food safety, in addition to the socioeconomic benefits.
Although very popular in Wisconsin, as we do have a ton of farms around here, it is common in most places around the United States, but started in the 1960s in Europe and Japan, partially because people feared for their agricultural land.
My sister started a CSA in her neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, this past summer (2008). She found the farmer and recruited a plethora of neighborhood families to join in. Her accomplishment landed her in the "Top Ten in 2008 " (Number One, no less!) of happenings in her neighborhood. The group she started became so well-liked, that there is a waiting list of people who are hoping to be 2009 supporters. Check out her CSA website.
So, even if you aren't in the middle of a cow mecca, you know that there probably is a way for you to keep your locals in business, and not worry about food contamination. See if there is a CSA or local farmer in your area. If my sister can do it in a metropolis, surely you can support one from wherever you are.