What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - and why it matters.
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
Curious about CSAs? Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. In it's most simple form, a CSA works like this:
- A farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public, prior to the growing season.
- Members or "share-holders" pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation, paying an up front fee to the farmer.
- In return, members receive a portion of the farm's harvest throughout the growing season. This is typically a box of fruits and vegetables, but possibly other farm products, such as eggs, as well.
Farmer's Market Cookbooks
Why Join a CSA?
So, why would someone want to pay a farmer up front for a share of his harvest when they can just run to the grocery store? What exactly is in it for the member?
- Eat ultra-fresh, often organic, seasonal food.
- Get exposed to new fruits and vegetables.
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season.
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food.
- Learn more about how food is grown, giving them a better appreciation for their food and their environment.
- Support their local economy.
- Reduce their carbon footprint by not buying food that was shipped thousands of miles to reach their table.
- Receive payment in advance of the growing season, helping with cash flow. Most CSA enrollment periods close before the first crops are planted.
- Develop relationships with the people who eat the food they grow.
- Are somewhat protected financially from a poor growing season.
- Have a guaranteed market for the fruits of their labor.
Would you join a CSA?
Community Support Agriculture Programs
Interested in finding a CSA in your area, but not sure where to start? Head down to your local farmer's market. Chances are some of the farmers there run CSAs. Even if not, they will certainly be able to give you information on nearby CSAs.
I was fortunate to meet my CSA farmer at a local farmer's market in Oklahoma City. After researching CSAs for about two years, we finally subscribed to Berry Creek Farms. I looked around for a CSA in my area a few years ago, but didn't really have any luck finding anything. Instead, we joined the local food cooperative. But, I never gave up on finding a good CSA, so when I ran across Berry Creek Farms, I jumped right in and haven't been disappointed.
We haven't received our first shipment yet, but I am excited for the first spring harvest. For $900 for a nine-month commitment, we will be bringing home a bag of fresh fruits and veggies each week. They grow everything from peaches to peppers from grapes to tomatoes. I'm thrilled about all the great certified organic produce my family will be enjoying this summer.
The farm even offers a seasonal dinner of farm-fresh produce for CSA member once a year. They invite you to the farm, giving you a chance to get to know the farmer, meet other CSA members, and enjoy a home-cooked, organic meal. My family is already looking forward to this dinner.
What's Your CSA Experience?
Now that you have learned about CSAs - are you ready to find one in your area and support your local farming community? I'd love to hear your stories about what you love about your CSA, what motivated you to join and what other steps you are taking to support sustainable agriculture.