This is a great picture sent to me from the folks at Fry Family Farms, my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Yep, mine. When you become a member of a CSA you build a deep relationship with a local farmer and you get to eat locally and seasonally all summer long (and into the fall for me).
CSA – What It’s All About?
Here’s how a CSA works. I invest in the farmer by purchasing a share. The farmer is able to buy seeds, soil amendments, and other necessities to support the farm. A little Econ 101 here – the farmer offsets the costs of farming while guaranteeing a market for the yield. In return, I get delicious, fresh, local, organic, seasonal produce delivered every week to my doorstep (June 7th is right around the corner and I can’t wait, my first delivery day) based on what’s harvested. This truly bridges the gap from farmer to consumer. Harvested Wednesday night = dinner on Thursday at my table.
To see what I get on an average week, take a look at this video.
How To Choose A CSA
There’s still time to sign up for this great option. First, there are two websites that will help you find CSAs near you - localharvest.org and Farmplate.com. There are many types of CSAs from buying directly from the farm (my choice) to buying clubs where the CSA organizers buy from a number of different farmers, giving you more options often including things other than whole foods such as breads, flowers, meats, cheese, etc. This can offer more convenience. Other options include CSA workshares where you help on the farm as partial or full payment for your share. A great option for the cash-strapped. Another option is prepurchasing “bucks” for the farm. Here you pay ahead receiving a discount and get to use the bucks at your convenience. This is helpful for people who travel frequently or want a different produce selection. (We do a combo of “bucks” and delivery CSA as there is never enough leafy greens in the box to get us through the week.) Check all policies and commitments to make sure you find the right CSA match for your lifestyle.
Next, investigate the selection of produce. Some CSAs focus on a few popular items and others provide a wide range. Check the CSA website or call them for a list of what is grown. Consider what you eat each week. Find a CSA that is the best match for your usual purchases. It doesn’t matter how great the eggplant is if you’re not going to eat it – throwing away rotten produce isn’t the idea, no matter how cheap the price. Although a nice benefit of the CSA is that you may get to try a new-to-you produce, which can be fun.
Next, decide on the share size and price that works for your household. There can be a big range in pricing as well as the amount provided. Some CSAs allow for half-size shares, but you can always share with a friend or neighbor to lower the cost. Ask the CSA farmer how much you receive and approximately when. Again, you don’t want more than you can use.
Consider your convenience factor. Some CSAs have you come to the farm, others have pick up locations, and others delivery directly to your home or work. Check the schedule for days and times. Find one that is convenient for your lifestyle.
Finally, although probably not critical in your decision process, but very helpful in my opinion, is to investigate the ways to interact with your farmer CSA. Many now have on-farm activities, newsletters (where I got the awesome picture for this blog), websites, get togethers, recipes, etc. You may not want to participate in everything, but it’s great to have the option. CSAs sending recipes to help you with any new produce items, especially the first years, makes it easier to ensure minimal waste. This step can really help you to connect with like-minded folks in your community. Through the CSA, the farmer, the people I meet, and my family, we all keep spreading positive practices.
Find Your CSA
Use the above steps and links to find your CSA. It is the best way to eat nutrient dense whole foods – seasonally and locally. It will cost you a fraction of what purchasing at the grocery store costs. You will support a local farmer and the local community. It’s amazing how easy it can be to make a difference in your world.