The local food movement is in full swing, and its brought a lot of new words to our lives. Sustainable, organic, heirloom, GMO, localvore, etc etc. But the one I want to talk about right now is CSA. I was working at the farmers market recently when it became clear that even regular shoppers and farmers market boosters may not know what CSA stands for or what its all about. So I decided some explanation is required.
What is it?
CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture" and, according to Wikipedia, began as a concept in Europe in the 1980's and was transplanted (haha @ farm puns) to the US shortly after. Basically, CSA is an economic model of farming wherein the "community" (those who want local and organic food) "support" the farmer growing the food by essentially investing in the farm. The investment is the up-front purchase of a share of produce from the farm. The payoff is the bounty of food the farm will produce and an overall sense of being part of the farm's extended family.
When you sign up for a CSA, you pay for the year in advance. For this you receive a weekly box of mixed veggies (and in my case, herbs AND flowers too!!). You never know quite what will be in your CSA box which means each week is like a surprise and an adventure! You pick up your box each week at a drop off location near you. Don't have time to make it to the farmers' market each week? No problem, all you need is fine minutes to pick up your weekly share and you're ready to go.
Every CSA is unique!
Just like farms and farmers, every CSA program is unique. Different farms grow different crops. Some do just veggies. Some do what's called a "whole diet" share where you get veggies, meat, cheese, and eggs. Some grow everything in the CSA while others buy or trade with other local farmers for some of the items in their box. CSA's also vary widely in terms of price and number of weeks the share is delivered. Of course I want you to consider my CSA program, but I know there are also many fine small farmers offering CSA's in this area, so don't hesitate to do some googling and figure out which program fits your needs best. If you can't buy from me, please buy from another small local farmer. Although this wont help my bank account, I do feel it is true that when one of us--small local farmers--success, we all succeed.
Why do it?
Paying in advance helps the farmer pay for the farm (seeds, irrigation supplies, soil amendments, etc) and it also allows the farmer to feel at least somewhat secure that all that work farming wont end in loosing money for the season. Speaking for myself, I'd farm for free and give all the food away for free, if I could afford it. My first two seasons of farming either cost me money out of my pocket or barely broke even. This year has to be the turn around year where I can actually contribute to my household through farming.
Joining a CSA is like joining a farm family!
Maybe you like the idea of farms and you certainly like eating food that's not genetically modified or covered in pesticide and herbicide but you don't actually want to be a farmer? Well then CSA is the perfect solution for you. Joining a CSA is like adopting--or being adopted by?--a family farm for the season. Like any member of the family, as a CSA shareholder you'll get the FIRST pick of the BEST produce. Want to come out and see the farm or help out with the chores? COME ON DOWN! Being a CSA member is like having a farmer in the family!
Are you worried that you wont be able to eat all that food? That's why I'm offing two share sizes: full share and half share. I don't want you to pay for food you wont eat or have food go to waste. But on the other hand, keep in mind that most of us don't each enough veggies so maybe getting a full share and finding new and interesting ways to incorporate all that veg into your diet is a worthy cause.
And since we've apparently entered the advertisement section of this post, I want to also mention that my CSA shares come with not just veggies but also fresh herbs and a bouquet of flowers. A bouquet of flowers might at first seem frivolous, but I'd argue that flowers bring joy and beauty into your house, and this sort of enjoyment is priceless. Sometimes its nice to treat yourself to something slightly less than practical and necessary, isn't it?
What's that you say? You're an avid gardener and already grow all the food you can eat? Well that's awesome! The more people who can grow their own food, the better! If you're not interested in a box of veggies each week, you may want to consider my flowers-only CSA. Get a big bouquet of flowers for fifteen weeks!
For info or to sign up with my CSA click on the 2013 CSA tab at the top of the page.
What sorts of questions or counter arguments do you have? Leave a comment below and lets talk about your perceptions, experiences, hopes or fears for CSA.