After making the move to Gainesville to start my dietetic program, I have felt so fortunate to be apart of all that this small city has to offer. Mainly the agriculture and abundance of fresh, local produce has really made me feel contentment.
More so recently I learned about CSAs, community supported agriculture. When you join a CSA, you help support a farm and receive their freshly picked produce each week.
There were many CSA options to choose from and in the end I am sure I would’ve been more than happy with any, but I decided to do some research and make a visit to Swallowtail in particular. They hosted an open house, so I was able to explore the farm and see exactly where my produce comes from, which is about 30 minutes away.
With payments needed in advance I had to rule out a few CSAs, but Swallowtail’s price options matched what I could afford. Upfront payments for a student can be pricey! Different CSAs will have different options, perhaps one that works best for you. You can check out Swallowtail’s shares here.
View the farm as I did:
As you can see in the pictures, the farm was beautiful (not to mention the Swamp Head brew they served was pretty yummy too ;) ). Gorgeous flowers and vegetables throughout, free roaming chickens and even some sheep. Knowing where my produce came from was not enough, I wanted to understand what kind of farm Swallowtail was and what their practices were. I was also wondering if Swallowtail is organic and what exactly that means anyway.
I asked a lovely Swallowtail farmer named Emily a few questions, which you can see our exact conversation below.
Me: “Swallowtail Farm isn’t certified organic, correct? How does the quality of your produce compare to organic produce? I read on the site that Swallowtail is a biodynamic farm, could you explain what that means?”
Emily: “Yes, these are good questions. I appreciate your interest! We are not a certified organic farm; there are a few reasons for this. First of all organic certification is very expensive and rigorous. Being only five years old we need to get our feet under us financially before we take that on. On another note, organic certification still allows for growers to use some chemicals on crops, which we do not do. We use absolutely NO synthetic substances of any kind. We are attempting to grow food in a holistic way, rather than fight with momma nature. This is where the biodynamic element come in. Biodynamic farming is basically a philosophy for us at this point. It basically means that we want to do things as naturally, intuitively, and holistically as possible. We are trying to look at the vegetables here as part of a larger farm organism where soil health, animal health, and human inputs all create a whole system. We are mimicking the farms gone by, where families kept a wide variety of vegetable crops and animals on their land in order to create better health over all. It’s the exact opposite of the dreaded monoculture.”
After hearing this and visiting the farm, I was sold and content to have chosen a farm that views agriculture as more than just a means of production and income.
I was excited for my first pickup, which I received arugula, spring mix, eggplant, sweet potatoes, radishes, green bell peppers, and flowers. I tried the arugula and it was so spicy! It was amazing, I honestly never knew that arugula should taste like this, moreover this excellent. All the veggies were so fresh and tasty I wanted to cry. I live for food and nutrition and I immediately knew that I made the right decision in joining a CSA, and particularly Swallowtail Farm.
My second pickup included arugula, spring mix, radishes, sweet potatoes, green bell peppers, bok choy, rosemary and a gorgeous sunflower. Every week I look forward to picking up my produce, for the surprise of nutritious and local vegetables that awaits.
A yummy veggie summer roll Swallowtail provided :3
Each morning I have found myself craving a raw radish. They are so spicy, it’s excellent. Radishes contain a compound called isothiocyanates, which is responsible for their spiciness. This phytochemical is derived from the breakdown of glucosinolates (“sulfur-containing compounds found in cruciferous vegetables”) with the help of an enzyme found in plant cells called myrosinase. Research has supported isothiocyanates in cancer prevention and other beneficial metabolic activity. You can read more about isothiocyanates here. Likewise radishes, other cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates as well as myrosinase, which are so healthy for us! That is why it’s important to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, so that we can benefit from the various phytochemicals present in our foods. The individual phytochemicals are quite intriguing to me and I am hoping to be involved in some research regarding these compounds in the near future.
Differentiating between store bought organic arugula and Swallowtail’s local arugula, I found that the flavors and overall composition of Swallowtail’s arugula was far superior bar none. I found the store bought version was thinner and lacked flavor as well as spiciness. This makes me curious as to whether the nutritional and phytochemical content is similar or deficient.
I will be honest, for those who are picky with their produce or don’t eat that much vegetables each week, I would not recommend joining a CSA (although, you could always share it with a friend or neighbor). For those who do enjoy trying new vegetables and don’t mind receiving any sort of delicious, fresh, and local produce each week, undoubtedly I would recommend joining a CSA.
Support while you can :)