Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a system of farming and food distribution that requires an upfront investment for “shares” of produce. As a supporter, your investment helps the farm plan their growing season and assists in covering their upfront costs.
You can think of a CSA as a subscription service. The shares are later delivered to designated pick-up spots (some even deliver directly to your door) the same day every week for the length of the harvest season. Share costs and details differ from farm to farm, so make sure you read up on the farms in your area before you join.
Investing in a CSA farm is a great way to ensure your family receives high-quality local and seasonal food.
- You receive weekly boxes full of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. You may be introduced to (and pushed to cook with) produce you have never heard of before. This season I was exposed to “new to me” veggies like garlic scapes, romanesco, and kohlrabi. YUM!
- The weekly cost break down may be cheaper than you expect. Say a ½ share from a local organic farm is $300 for a harvest season that spans June to November, approximately 20 weeks. That breaks down to $15 per week, which is likely less than you would pay for the same produce at your local organic market.
- You get to know the farmers that are producing your food. You have a direct line of communication to the men and women growing your food and can ask all your burning questions. Some farms allow you to visit the farm to see how they operate and may offer volunteer opportunities.
- As the CSA model increases in popularity, more and more farmers are allowing for more flexibility. Many farmers, including the organic farm I chose to purchase from, offer pick-up sites where you can “create your own box”, so you have a bit more control over what you take home each week.
- You are paying up front, so some budgets just don’t allow for this type of system. In this case, I recommend local farmers’ markets where the cost per week for fresh produce may be higher, but you won’t need to pay up front. Many of the farms that participate in CSAs also vend at farmers’ markets.
- The contents of each box is a surprise. If you are Type A like me, this can be REALLY difficult. You may have to adjust your weekly grocery trip during harvest season. Ideally you would pick up your share first, then meal plan around what you receive, factor in pantry items you have and build a shopping list from there.
- You share a level of risk with the farmer. Weather conditions can be unpredictable and may have a direct impact on yield.
- If you go on vacation during the harvest season, you may miss out on a pick-up or two. This is great opportunity to offer a week of your share up to a friend. Many CSA farms will donate anything that is not picked up by a certain time, so there is no fear anything will go to waste.
To find a local farmer in your area that participates in community supported agriculture head over to Local Harvest and enter your zip code in the search box. Currently Local Harvest only lists participating farms in the United States. Are you outside of the U.S.? Search “(your city) + community supported agriculture” in your favorite search engine.
Do you belong to a CSA farm share? If so, how has it worked out for you?
This post is part of my new weekly blog series, “WTF is _____?”. With this series I aim to educate readers about confusing or obscure nutrition, health and wellness topics. Do you have suggestions for a future “WTF is ___?” post? Leave them in the comments below!