The day has come, already! Yes, my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) sign up sheet arrived. This year my CSA – yep, you read that right my Community Supported Agriculture is offering a new piece. I can get 24 weeks of the best fresh, local, organic produce and I get to pick which items I want! Hallelujah!
Don’t get me wrong – I have loved the great fruits and vegetables I’ve received. I’ve even learned about new-to-me-vegetables thanks to my community supported agriculture. But there’s never enough kale, spinach, or chard for my family and we aren’t huge fans of eggplant – one or two a summer is enough for us. But this year we will have the best of both worlds. And, since I’ll be stopping by the farmer’s market to pick up my community supported agriculture basket, I’ll be right there to pick up other essentials too. Life is great!
Community Supported Agriculture – What’s it all about?
When you become a member of a CSA you build a deep relationship with a local farmer and you get to eat locally and seasonally all summer long (and into the fall for me). We’ve been “partners” with Fry Family Farms for years – they are now friends too (what a great Christmas card this year!).
Here’s how Community Supported Agriculture works. I invest in the farmer by purchasing a share. The farmer is able to buy seeds, soil amendments, and other necessities to support the farm. A little Econ 101 here – the farmer offsets the costs of farming while guaranteeing a market for the yield. In return, I get delicious, fresh, local, organic, seasonal produce delivered every week to my doorstep (June 7th is right around the corner and I can’t wait, my first delivery day) based on what’s harvested. This truly bridges the gap from farmer to consumer. Harvested Wednesday night = dinner on Thursday at my table.
Community Supported Agriculture – See What I Get In A CSA Basket:
You can see a video of what one of my weekly shares looks like here:
Community Supported Agriculture – The Options
There’s still time to sign up for this great option. First, there are two websites that will help you find a community supported agriculture farm, market, and restaurants near you – localharvest.org and Farmplate.com. There are many types of CSAs from buying directly from the farm (my choice) to buying clubs where the community supported agriculture organizers buy from a number of different farmers, giving you more options often including things other than whole foods such as breads, flowers, meats, cheese, etc. This can offer more convenience. Other options include community supported agriculture workshares where you help on the farm as partial or full payment for your share. A great option for the cash-strapped. Another option is prepurchasing “bucks” for the farm. Here you pay ahead receiving a discount and get to use the bucks at your convenience. This is helpful for people who travel frequently or want a different produce selection. Check all policies and commitments to make sure you find the right community supported agriculture match for your lifestyle.
Community Supported Agriculture – How to Choose One
First, investigate the selection of produce. Some community supported agriculture farms focus on a few popular items and others provide a wide range. Check the CSA website or call them for a list of what is grown. Consider what you eat each week. Find a community supported agriculture that is the best match for your usual purchases. It doesn’t matter how great the eggplant is if you’re not going to eat it – throwing away rotten produce isn’t the idea, no matter how cheap the price (yes, I’ve done that). Although a nice benefit of the community supported agriculture is that you may get to try a new-to-you produce, which can be fun (this is how I first fell in love with kohlrabi).
Next, decide on the share size and price that works for your household. There can be a big range in pricing as well as the amount provided. Some community supported agriculture organizers allow for half-size shares, but you can always share with a friend or neighbor to lower the cost. Others offer a variety in the number of weeks in the season for more options. Some even offer payment options like discounts for paying early or payment plans. The best bet is to ask the CSA farmer about share and payment options, how much you receive and approximately when. Again, you don’t want more than you can use.
Consider your convenience factor. Some community supported agriculture farmers have you come to the farm, others have pick up locations, and others delivery directly to your home or work. Check the schedule for days and times. Find one that is convenient for your lifestyle. We’ve always had our share delivered because of our work schedule, but this year, with the option of choosing my own items for the box, it’s worth it to pick-up at the farmer’s market. I’m so looking forward to Thursday mornings!
Community Supported Agriculture – Interact with Your Farmer
Although probably not critical in your decision process, but very helpful in my opinion, is to investigate the ways to interact with your community supported agriculture farmer. Many now have on-farm activities, newsletters, websites, family farm visits, get togethers, recipes, etc. You may not want to participate in everything, but it’s great to have the option. Community supported agriculture organizers that send recipes to help you with any new produce items, especially the first years, makes it easier to ensure minimal waste. You will also be able to connect with like-minded folks in your community. Through the CSA, the farmer, the people I meet, and my family, we all keep spreading positive practices.
Community Supported Agriculture – Eat Fresh & Save $$$
Use the above steps and links to find your CSA. It is the best way to eat nutrient dense whole foods – seasonally and locally. It will cost you a fraction of what purchasing at the grocery store costs. You will support a local farmer and the local community. It’s amazing how easy it can be to make a difference in your world.