One of the blog themes for May was “community”, so I couldn’t let the month end without a discussion of community supported agriculture, or CSA. Many of you are probably already familiar with CSAs, but hopefully you’ll be inspired to learn more about CSAs, join one, or (why not?) even start one.
What is a CSA?
CSAs are like subscription services to a local farm. The details can vary from farm to farm, but most commonly, you pay a certain amount of money up-front for a specific number of weeks’ worth of fresh, local produce from a particular farm. For example, the CSA we have used charges $300 for ten weeks.
Each week, we received a large box (technically, a half-bushel) full of seasonal, certified organic veggies, fruits, and herbs. In some cases, you might go to the farm or a farmers’ market to pick up your weekly CSA box; in other cases, the CSA might deliver to your home or organize drop points around the city where you go to pick up your box each week.
Photo by F Delventhal
Benefits of a CSA
There are many benefits to joining a CSA. In a nutshell:
• Because you pay up-front, the farmer is assured of a steady income throughout the season.
• You are guaranteed a steady supply of produce each week.
• It’s hard to find produce more fresh and flavorful than this – unless you grow your own!
• You will try new things and become acquainted with new flavors; our CSA often included recipes for various veggies and suggestions for preparation.
• Buying locally not only supports your local economy, but also helps the environment – if you live in Texas, why buy bok choy flown in from California when you can buy it from the farm outside of town?
• Many CSAs are either certified organic or use organic practices, which also helps the environment as well as benefiting your health.
• Some CSAs also offer the option of adding on things like local pastured eggs, nuts, locally roasted coffees, and cut flowers straight from the farm (my personal favorite!).
• CSAs might also offer the option of work in exchange for food. Known as a workshare, this is a great way to get your hands dirty, learn about gardening from the experts, and receive your veggies and fruit at a reduced price, or for free.
Photo by Dwight Sipler
One of the most important benefits is simply the sense of connectedness and community that comes from being part of a CSA. Knowing that you are helping to provide your local farmer with a living wage, committing to eat food that was grown in dirt not far from your own home, and getting to know your fellow CSA members through farm days, potlucks, and volunteer or workshare days – this is an experience unmatched by any other.
Have you ever been part of a CSA? What was your experience like?