CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and has become very popular with the farm to table movement. CSA’s have been in existence more than 25 years and provide a great way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food while supporting their community and neighbors. In this post I’ll explain all about how they work, what’s in it for you, and how to pick the right CSA for you and your family.
For quite some time I considered buying a membership with one of my local farmers. After all, I had sampled their good from my local farmer’s markets, I am familiar with how they grow their food, and had even visited one of the farms in person. And yet, until last month, I had avoided taking advantage of this service. As the lone vegetarian in my home, a full box of vegetables each week was far too much food. I loath throwing food out, to this day I can hear the mournful voices of sweet nuns from my elementary school speaking of starving children the world over as we were admonished to finish every bit of food on our lunch plates. On a personal note, Curly Oliver if you are reading this, thank you. It is because of your sweet nature and desire to eat not only what was on your plate, but most of what was on mine that I was able to go to recess each day. A couple of Saturday’s ago I met one of the owners of Prudhomme City Farms and I was delighted to learn that I could buy a half share! So now that I am fully invested with one of my local farmers, here’s the skinny.
CSA’s are a partnership between yourself and the farmer. You pay upfront for a portion of the season’s produce and share in the same risk and harvest as the farmer. So there may be a bumper crop of squash, but no snap beans, you share in the ups and downs. The CSA I bought into offers vegetables, fruit, and eggs. It’s all organic and is delivered to a drop off point each Tuesday. With this particular farm you can pick what you want at the drop off point, the boxes are not prepackaged. So if you don’t care for eggplant you aren’t stuck with 5 each week while they are in season. Another benefit is that the variety is better for those who invested in the CSA. Prudhomme City Farms offers some heirloom varieties and exotics that never make it to the farmers’ market but that their CSA members do get to enjoy. I love trying new varieties of tomatoes, melons, beans, etc and this is a great way to do it. So while you’re at the farmers’ market ask questions if they offer a CSA: Can I buy a half share? How big is a whole share? Do your CSA members get to choose what they take home each week or is the box prepackaged? Do you offer heirloom varieties to CSA members? What are your drop off points, days, times? What is the cost? What types of foods are offered: vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, herbs?
The best way to find a local CSA is to go to your local farmers’ market, shop with the one that offers what you enjoy eating, as well as things you’ve never tried before (be adventurous my friends!) and inquire if they offer a CSA membership. If your town doesn’t have a local farmers’ market then search the web, many times a farmer who is in the next town has a CSA that you can participate in. It make take a bit of investigating to find a good fit but it’s worth the time to insure that you’re getting wholesome foods grown locally.
About now you may be asking why not just go the supermarket and pick up what I want. After all, I don’t have any risk that way and I can pick and choose what I want. I had the same thought process and then I took a good look at the produce section of my local supermarket. The veggies are nice, but it’s always the same thing. There are strawberries all year long and they usually don’t taste like anything because strawberries are only in season in the late spring and early summer. And if they don’t taste like anything there isn’t very much nutrition going on….And yes, we have a Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and a Fresh Pickens but the first two are extremely expensive and while they offer heirloom tomatoes and organic, the prices are far too expensive for shopping there each week for all of your groceries. Fresh Pickens, which is a local open air market, usually doesn’t offer organic or anything but your standard fare, it is very economical and I do shop there a few times a month. My reasons for choosing to invest in a CSA are these: the food is really fresh (no traveling for several days before it makes it to me), I am investing in my community, I am making a long term decision to eat well and eat in season, and it’s a green choice.
I hope this article has been helpful and at least spurred you to take a look at CSA’s.
If you enjoyed this article or know someone who would, please share!