The first day of spring is a great time to sign up to share in the bounty of summer’s harvest through a CSA program.
The concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) originated in Sweden and Japan in the 1960s and was introduced to the United States in the 1980s where it has gained tremendous momentum as consumers seek to eat responsibly, support local family farms, enjoy food at its peak, and connect more meaningfully to their community.
Simply stated, CSA is defined as a “community” of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, where growers and consumers provide mutual support and share in the risks and benefits of food production. In the U.S., CSAs are a typically based on a subscription model where individuals annually purchase a share of a farm’s annual harvest. Members or “share-holders” of the farm buy a “share” to help cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive a portion of the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season ….sharing both the risk and rewards of farming.
CSAs benefit both the farm and the subscriber:
– CSAs provide the farmer with important working capital and predictability by knowing in advance of planting the market for their farm’s products. This helps them plan their crops and other farming activities as well as offer a more efficient and cost-effective way of getting a farm’s products into the hands of customers versus farmers markets and other time-intensive and unpredictable marketing & sales efforts.
-Customers (CSA subscribers/members) are rewarded with a season full of farm-fresh products at the peak of freshness as well as the satisfaction of reconnecting to the land, participating directly in food production, supporting local family farms and strengthening their own community.
We love the CSA that we’ve been a part of over the years (I believe this is our ninth year)! Of course we love the weekly treasure box of seasonal surprises that often contain delightful new discoveries (who knew kohlrabi would become a family favorite!). But it’s more than just reaping the rewards of the harvest. The greatest satisfaction of being a part of a CSA is the sense of connection and the relationship we now have with the incredible family whose passion, dedication and hard work make what we get in return so much more than simply the items in our weekly boxes. It’s the people behind the food that matter…and that make what we put on our table all that more meaningful. Essentially this is Local Goodness at its best!
A few things to know about CSAs:
– Over the years, CSAs have both expanded and evolved greatly. While many CSAs are offered during the “growing season,” year-round CSAs can also be found, especially in areas of the country with year-round growing conditions.
– Each farm has its own unique CSA program so you will will want to shop around to find the one with options that fit your particular needs. You will find a range of flexible options – weekly, bi-weekly, large shares, small shares, ala carte – as well as farming methods. There are CSAs that incorporate meats, dairy, eggs, plants, baked goods, honey’s, jams, pickles and preserved items in addition to their fresh, seasonal produce. The variety is endless, so there is surely a CSA that can meet your needs.
– There are very few CSAs with home delivery. Almost all CSAs, however, have a variety of pick-up locations, so look for one in your neighborhood or near your work. (Note: Many farms will will add new pick-up locations for those willing to host a pick-up site at their home or place of work, particularly in neighborhoods they don’t currently serve.)
With the rapid proliferation of CSAs across the country, it’s now pretty easy to to find a CSA in your area. A quick internet search for “CSA” or “Community Supported Agriculture” in your city will point you in the right direction. Additionally, you can also contact local Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters to find CSA farms in your area.
Many CSAs sell out well before the season begins, so don’t wait too long to seek out and find a CSA that’s right for you!