I am a huge fan of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and wanted to share with you my joy in being a part of one! My family has been a member of one for four years now and it has been one of the best decisions we’ve made since moving here. I love that we get weekly, fresh organic produce during the growing season and it’s exposed me to so many new vegetables (e.g. garlic scapes, beauty heart radishes, romanesco, and so much more!).
I also love the connection to local food. Since being a part of a CSA, it has made me think more about what I buy, who makes it, and where I purchase it from. For example, I like to buy jelly from our local farmers market rather than the grocery store. I like that my money is going to support someone in my community, and I am contributing to my local economy. I also find that when I go the grocery store, I will look at different brands to see if there are any local products and will often use that as one of the deciding factors for determining which brand to pick.
So… what is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Basically, it’s a relationship between you as the consumer and the farmer. You pay a set amount of money up front that helps support the farmer by providing funds in advance and in exchange, you get fresh, local, seasonal produce. Many farms also send weekly newsletters throughout the growing season and will provide opportunities for you to visit the farm.
How do I find a CSA?
- Check the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Local Food Directory
- Search in your area to see if you have a local farmers’ market. If so, talk to some of the farmers there to see if they have a CSA.
What to consider when picking out a CSA
- Pick-up location – Do you want a location closer to your work? Closer to your home? Would you pick up at your local market? Think about what is most convenient for you.
- Farm Size & CSA History – How long has the farm been operating? How long has the CSA been offered?
- Share Type & Size – What types of shares & what share sizes does the farm offer? Some farms offer a model where you can pick what you want in the box each week whereas others decide for you based off of what they pick that week. Then for sizes, the boxes can range from small to large, whereas others offer only one standard size.
- Cost – The upfront cost may seem $$$ but when you do the math and break it down on a weekly basis, it’s actually quite reasonable. To give you an idea, we pay $400 for a small share (feeds about 2 people) for ~5 months. The produce is all organic so we pay roughly $20 a week for produce, which in my opinion is pretty reasonable.
- Note: If you are on a limited income, check to see if there are any financial assistance programs in your area. Also check to see if there an option to do a worker share (i.e. you work a specified number of hours on the farm in exchange for a share).
- CSA Length – How long does the growing season last? When can you expect your first box and your last box? Check the website as many farms provide pictures of sample boxes.
- Growing practices – How is produce grown on the farm? Is it organic or not?
- Produce variety – What does a typical box look like in June vs. September? What types of produce can I expect in a box?
What other things would you like to know about joining a CSA?