Healthy and Heartfelt

GobblinBerries

My favorite part of the holiday season is giving.  I delight in coming up with clever ways to stretch a buck and customize gifts, providing something original and from the heart.  A lot can be taught and practiced in doing this – I have improved my sewing skills, learned how to do metal work, become more educated about cooking, and even improved my carpentry skills doing these things.  My kids have learned how to build a lot, share, and most of all, to give to others.

I’m always on the lookout for a high quality experience as well, something that is eye-opening and engaging.  Now that the world is wired, it’s easier than ever to find a community center with classes, a local theatrical production, or even a community festival to buy tickets to, to pass along to a loved one or favorite teacher at the holidays.  In light of FDA Proposals being considered (Food Safety Modernization Act), as well as recent reports about the volume of food purchased in America that is inclusive of low-quality, high-pollutant imports, my interest in CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture Programs) is renewed.  I’m looking into some as gift ideas, this year.

Our family subscribes to two CSAs.  CSAs work a lot like a magazine subscription.  Every week or every other week, you get several pounds of locally grown foods.  While CSAs once were only for fruits and vegetables, there are now CSAs for meat, cheese, and eggs, and some offer baked goods and jarred products like oils, jams, honey, and pickles.  Add to that, the existence of fruit shares or swaps (for example foundfruit.com and garden/craft swaps at Common Ground in Palo Alto every month or so), where you can trade what your own yard produces for something another person grows, and you can fill your fridge and pantry without venturing too far from home.  Above, you can see Holly filling her cheeks at Picchetti Open Space, eating berries from the vine, during the 2011 season.

We eat much better since I signed on to our first CSA over three years ago.  As a mom, I was always mindful of eating higher quality foods, and I always looked at organic and locally grown products, even if cost motivated me to buy imported, nonorganic produce.  As soon as we were getting CSA Produce every week from local farms in Watsonville and Half Moon Bay, we were eating more variety of foods, taking in more vitamins, and broadening our food repertoire.  The cost savings were an added bonus – we get quite a bit of flavor, nutrition, and cooking options for less money that a typical lunch for two.  We have never looked back.  Occasionally, we still buy produce at the store, and even the stuff marketed as local and organic pales in comparison to what we get through our farm subscription.  The only produce we’ve found that tops what we get from our CSA is what we grow ourselves, but that’s strictly due to pride. 

This holiday season, I’m looking forward to finding CSAs in friends’ and relatives’ neighborhoods, as a way to bring them health and happiness – after all, “The way to a man’s heart is through his belly.”

If you are interested in CSAs as well, see localharvest.org and use the interactive map (or enter your zip code) for some options in your area.  We have been thrilled with High Ground Organics and Mariquita Farms (both formerly part of Two Small Farms, our first subscription, until each farm grew and spun off on their own) and Frog Hollow Farms, the Stroller Hikes sponsor that specializes in fruit.  We’ve also enjoyed some lovely samples from Full Circle Farm, a small but amazing farm smack dab in the middle of busy Silicon Valley, in Sunnyvale.  You may recall visiting Full Circle on school field trips or on Earth Day; Stroller Hikes had a nice booth at their Earth Day event for three years.

No, we probably won’t be doing any cooking with these fruit and veggies.  We go through our High Ground veggie share so quickly, that there is rarely more than one fruit or vegetable left at the end of the week.  But if you’re eager to create original, from-the-heart gifts with us, remember that Stroller Hikes is hosting its 4th Annual Holiday Craft Party at Sports Basement on Saturday, December 7th from 10 AM to noon.  You can RSVP by using the form.  The event is FREE, but Stroller Hikes will gladly accept your donations to help pay for our supplies and support our regular programs, encouraging families to establish healthy routines with lots of outdoor time, exercise, and appreciation of local parks and open spaces.

– Debbie (Founder and President), Max (7), Holly (3), and Andrew

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