Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is when a farm sells its produce as “shares” directly to the public. Share holders receive a box of produce each week, which can also include other items from the farm, such as flowers, eggs, meats and baked goods.
Sometimes known as “subscription farming,” CSAs generally involve the customer to a much higher level than farms simply supplying products to the public. For example, some farms send a newsletter to their share holders that includes a preview of the week’s offerings and recipes for how to use them, welcome farm visits (even during birthing times), and will even let people “earn” their produce from the farm by helping around the farm. With CSAs, you are essentially a member of the farm family, not just a customer.
Other benefits include:
§ Locally grown items. The fruits and veggies aren’t picked before they’re ripe in order to be shipped, and you’re eating foods in their season – in their prime. In addition, it doesn’t take as much fuel for transporting the items, nor does it require as much packaging.
§ Fewer chemicals. Many CSAs, organic or not, use sustainable practices.
§ Supporting local farmers. You know exactly who you are giving your money to and what you are getting compared to a grocery store or mega market. Money spent with the CSA stays in the local area, thus strengthening the local economy
§ The chance to participate on a working farm and learn about what you eat.
You can find a local CSA by visiting Local Harvest. If you can’t find a CSA close to you, try contacting a local farm and suggest that they offer a CSA next year.
Also, shop around before you decide to join a CSA. The best way to learn about a CSA is to schedule a visit. Prior to the visit, write down questions you wish to ask, such as if the farm uses pesticides or growth hormones, or is organic. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and give feedback during the season — comments and suggestions help the CSA farmer plan to for the next season as well.