Have you ever heard about a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA is basically a farmer who is selling his crop to you directly without the middleman. When you join a CSA and the season begins, you will get a weekly box of produce for your family. Whatever the farmer harvested that week will be in your box.
CSA’s give you the opportunity to explore a wide variety of produce. So if you have ever wanted to try new vegetables but didn’t know where to start, a CSA can make it easier. In your weekly box you might have a little of this and a little of that. Small amounts of different produce for you to try. Many farms will also provide some simple recipes to get you started.
Here is how a CSA works. You determine which CSA is right for your needs and sign up. Initially you will make a one time payment for the share you are purchasing. That payment might seem large at first until you realize that it covers 20+ weeks of the growing season. Some CSAs might charge quarterly or even weekly. Once the farmer starts to harvest, they will deliver a box with your share or portion each week. Most CSAs have a local drop site that you will visit once a week to pick up your share.
Reasons to Join a CSA…
1. Enjoy Healthier Food that is Seasonal
The food that you get from a CSA is generally harvested and delivered the same week. It is picked ripe and ready to go. No produce is being harvested under-ripe to account for long transport. Thus you will get the highest nutritional content of that food. Not only that, but let’s face it, the food just tastes better. Since it is harvested at peak of it’s ripeness this enhances the delicious flavors of the foods. Buying food in season also assures that it will have the best nutritional value.
2. Eat More Locally Produced Foods
There are advantages to eating locally grown foods. In general, the foods are of course fresher with less nutrient losses. But eating local can benefit the farmers as well as your community. There tends to be less waste when food is consumed locally. Farmers can gauge demand and grow accordingly. Although some foods can be a little more expensive, other locally grown products are more economical.
3. Support Your Community of Farmers
When we choose to buy our foods from our local farmers they oftentimes earn more money. This not only supports their families but the workers who are needed to harvest as well. This also keeps money in the community and that helps other businesses thrive. Additionally, this can help to preserve those family farms that are shrinking.
4. Less Harmful to the Environment
When you buy foods from your neighborhood farmers it helps to reduce the loss of wide open spaces and green areas. I would much rather see farms on the horizon than more tract homes. Another advantage is crop diversity which can preserve our environment.
How to get started with a CSA…
Do an online search for CSA’s in your area
Just type in CSA and your area into the browser bar and a list of local CSAs can be found. Another way to access local CSAs is to search through Local Harvest Website. This is a CSA management company where local farmers can sign up. Each CSA will specify what they grow annually, how much a share will cost and when and where the pick up site is.
Determine what type of produce or foods you want
The products provided by a CSA can vary. Some farms grow traditional produce such as tomatoes and green beans. Other farms might grow stone fruits or berries. Some farms might provide herbs, honey and even flowers. In addition to plant foods there are also CSAs for animal products such as eggs, milk and meat.
Contact any companies that sound promising
Initially, you might want to call or email the various companies to check on their prices, what produce they offer and where their drop off sites are. Many CSAs have this information listed on their website, however I think it is a good idea to double check for accuracy. Other questions to ask might be what their start and end dates are? What amount of food is in each size share? What are their growing practices such as whether foods are grown organically if that is important to you? Get as much information up front for each CSA as you can.
Determine which CSA is right for you and sign up
Based on this information you can then decide which CSA will be right for you. Oftentimes the shares will sell out pretty quickly so don’t wait until the growing season starts. Early in the year is the best time to decide and sign up.
CSAs can provide a wonderful opportunity to get regular produce delivered directly from the farmer. They give you the chance to explore new fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis for much of the growing season. If you would like to eat more produce but you don’t have the space or time to grow a big garden then a CSA can provide that produce. Plus, it is totally exciting to see what is in your “box” each week. Who doesn’t like a surprise?
I hope that you will think about joining a CSA if it is right for you. We definitely want to be eating more plant foods in our diet. And choosing to eat fresh and local is a good practice. To do this we can grow vegetables in our gardens, we can visit our local Farmer’s Markets, we can harvest from U-Pick Farms and we can join a CSA.
I have created a form that you can use to compare different CSAs in your area. Just sign up for my email to access the form. It will put all the information in one place so that you can make a better decision about which CSA is right for you.