CSA 101: A lesson in Community Supported Agriculture

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With spring upon us, many start looking forward to the fresh organic vegetables they’ll be soon seeing from farms in their area.  As the localvore movement has grown, demand for locally grown food has exploded, which has led to farmers and consumers partnering in what’s known as community supported agriculture (CSA). Before this year's harvest season begins, WegoWise is here to offer you an overview of this popular way to access local veggies.

 

What is CSA?

A 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that over 12,000 farms in the United States were marketing produce through a CSA, and that number has only grown significantly since then.  Community supported agriculture allows residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by farmers.  Members of a CSA purchase a “share” of vegetables that is delivered to a local site either weekly or bi-weekly, usually from June until October.  The concept of the CSA share is that you pay for an entire season of produce upfront, usually costing around $400-$600.  This allows your farmer to be able to know their operating capital for the season, and helps spread the risk (or reward) for the season’s bounty across the individual shareholders.

CSA shares typically include 7-10 types of vegetables, depending on the time of season, which is enough for a family of 2-3 people.  Most organizations also offer half shares for smaller households or families who don’t eat at home as often.  In addition to vegetables, many CSA shareholders have the option of buying other produce from local farms such as fruit, eggs, meat or even flowers!

Advantages

There are plentiful benefits to CSA for both producers and consumers.  Farmers get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16-hour days in the field begin, plus receive payment early in the season, which greatly aids the farm’s cash flow.  Consumers get to eat ultra-fresh food, be exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking and actually know where their food is coming from.  On top of that, the consumer gets to develop a personal relationship with the farmer who grows their food (and vice versa).  Buy local, eat well, be healthy and protect the environment -- everybody wins!

Find a CSA near you!

Check out this Department of Agriculture link for more detailed information about community supported agriculture.  While no official database exists of CSA farms, you can find a pretty comprehensive listing of contact information here from Local Harvest.  Make sure you don’t miss the boat though, as many popular CSAs fill up very early in the year and some may already be sold out for 2012!