This spring our family decided to try something we have never done, or even heard of before. We joined a local CSA.

What is a CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, that means you have a local farm that is supported by community members who purchase a “share.”  Typically, shares are picked up weekly and contain a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Why should you join?

We have had such a positive experience with our CSA.  Here are my top three reasons you should look into joining one in your area.

growing plants

1. You get fresh, locally-grown, organic produce.

Of course, this is the main benefit to joining a CSA.  You can feel good about improving your local economy while enjoying the freshest possible produce.

We have found the fruits, vegetables, eggs, and honey to be the highest quality we’ve ever tasted with a minimal increase in price.

Keep in mind that many small farms use organic growing practices, but can’t afford to become USDA certified. This means you get organic produce without the big price tag.

Our particular farm raises chickens for eggs and uses the litter as a source of nitrogen instead of commercial fertilizer.  They also use rooting hogs to clear fields, and even use draft horses and a plow to break the ground in some fields.

Each farm will have its own growing practices, so be sure to ask your farmers. They will be happy to share their passion for farming and growing great food with you.

2. It forces you out of your cooking comfort zone.

Each week we pick up a basket full of goodies, some of which were virtually unknown to me before we joined.

I might skip over them in the grocery store, but since I’ve already purchased them in advance, I’ll find some way to use them. It has really expanded our menu.

I have to add, our particular farm has been wonderful about including recipes with each week’s share, kick starting our meal ideas.

3.  It is a hands-on lesson for your children about the origin of their food.

toddler visits farm

Even though our son is still just a toddler, I want him to begin to understand that food doesn’t come from a box in the grocery store.

I can think of no better place for him to learn than on the very farm where his food is grown.  The family that runs our CSA farm was thrilled to let Miles, our 18 month old, explore the rows of strawberries on a recent visit.

Here are a few tips, if you’re serious about getting started with a CSA in your area:

  • Check an online resource like Local Harvest to find a farm near you.
  • Start looking now for next spring.  There is often a waiting list, and you can get discounts by signing up early.
  • Many farms offer a fall share with their CSA — ask around!
  • Consider splitting a share with another family to cut costs and pick up responsibilities.

Are you in a CSA? What’s your favorite benefit to being part of one?