So, you’ve been going to the farmers’ market for years. You keep hearing about CSAs. You keep seeing people showing up with their shopping bags and having them filled while no money changes hands. You always buy the same items at the market and wish you were just a little more adventurous. Or, you often don’t have time to make it to the market every week and wish you had an easier way to get fresh, local produce into your fridge and weekly meal plans.
It’s time you looked into a way to participate in your local farmer’s harvests on a regular basis, and this post will help you learn how to do just that.
WHAT IS A CSA?
CSA is an acronym that stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In general, a CSA is a collective of households who buy into the harvest of a farm for a specified period of time. Usually, share members pay in advance for their share and this helps the farmer manage expenses and cash flow. Often, members are asked to assume some of the risks of the season. There are no guarantees with most CSA’s.
To make sure you understand what those risks are, you should make a point of visiting the farm you choose to join. Often, farms will have open houses at the beginning of the season, but they will also schedule a time for you to take a personal tour of the farm. CSAs offer the opportunity for a personal connection between the farmer and the member. Take advantage of this.
EVERY FARM HAS ITS OWN MODEL
Here at Stony Ridge Farm, we simply call our program a Farm Share. This year, the average commitment for members is 10 weeks, and we offer share opportunities 40 weeks of the year. Since the CSA business model took off in the United States in the 1970s farms have continued to customize their models.
Some farms ask members to volunteer for workdays in addition to their membership fee. Some farms have add-on products that allow members to expand their weekly allotment to meet the needs of their family. Some, like ours, offer home delivery of shares.
HOW CAN I FIND A CSA PROGRAM THAT IS RIGHT FOR ME?
With the advent of the internet, joining a farm share program is much easier because there are
Here are 5 resources to help you with your search:
1. The CSA Day Directory: this interactive map organized by Small Farm Central will help you identify farms in your area participating in CSA Day.
2. Local Harvest: an online database of farms in the United States offering CSAs.
3. Eat Well Guide: a curated directory of over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms and markets that source local, sustainable food.
4. Local publications, magazines, and newspapers will usually have articles dedicated to the local food scene beginning in February and extending through the growing season.
5. Your local farmers' markets: visit your local markets to meet farmers and learn which ones offer a farm share program. Local Harvest also has an interactive directory of local markets.
So, go ahead and commit to a CSA for the season. That commitment isn’t only to the farm, but to your health and the health of your family, to the local economy, and to the vibrancy of your community!
When you join one, leave a comment below.