Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. In addition, it’s a great way to eat healthy, often organic, fruits and vegetables.
Here’s how it works
- A farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public.
- Typically the share consists of a box of fruits and vegetables, but other farm products may be included.
- Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription")
- receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
- Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
CSAs aren't confined to produce. Some farmers include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies. Sometimes several farmers will offer their products together, to offer the widest variety to their members. For example, a produce farmer might create a partnership with a neighbor to deliver chickens to the CSA drop off point, so that the CSA members can purchase farm-fresh chickens when they come to get their CSA baskets. Other farmers are creating standalone CSAs for meat, flowers, eggs, and preserved farm products. In some parts of the country, non-farming third parties are setting up CSA-like businesses, where they act as middle men and sell boxes of local (and sometimes non-local) food for their members.
Shared Risk – It’s a good thing
Not all CSA’s have a shared risk policy but don’t be shocked if yours has one. It’s isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you do need to be aware if there is a policy. I personally like it. I trust my farmer and believe that we are in it “together”. If he has a bumper year, he gives me bigger portions. If the crop is damaged due to uncontrolled weather, then he has to cut back or cancel all together. To be honest with you, it’s what farming is all about; the unknown. Just make sure you know your farmer and both of you understand the expectations. It’s a good thing, really!
I would encourage you to check out the list of farms participating in CSA. Most farms are signing up their CSA’s now, so don’t delay. They only have a certain number of shares available.
The above blog was modified from Localharvest website. For the full story, check out their website - http://www.localharvest.org