CSA: Community Supported Agriculture
Community Supported Agriculture programs are available at many small farms to help connect the consumer with the grower. Buying locally, reducing transportation costs, eating healthier, supporting local businesses, and lower environmental impacts are all benefits of using CSA’s.
Local consumers buy a “share” in the farm at the beginning of the season. This allows the farmer to do things like buy seeds, pay for parts, and pay employees. In return, CSA customers share in the farm’s seasonal bounty. They will get a portion of the farm’s products throughout the season.
Now that there are many small farmers in many different towns (check them all out at your local farmer’s market!), it may be hard to choose which CSA program to be a part of. We will break down the essential elements of each CSA so that you can make the right decision.
The cost of CSA memberships will vary from farm to farm. Prices could be anywhere from $50 a month to $1500 per season. Check if you would be paying per pick up, per month, per season, or per year. Just pick one that matches your budget and your desires.
The items you actually receive each week will also change from farm to farm. Farms will produce vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meats, honey, canned goods, art pieces, and much more. CSA’s will also tell you how many people the membership will feed. The more you want, the more you are likely to pay.
Each farm will have some sort of list or explanation of what you will get throughout the season.
Choosing the right CSA also means choosing where you want to invest your money. Ask the farmers how they grow their food. Do they use pesticides / herbicides / hormones? How are they practicing sustainable agriculture? How are they trying to reduce their water use? How close is their farm to where you are? Asking this type of question can tell you a lot about who you are dealing with.
You should also consider the farmers themselves. If you can’t generally trust someone, you can’t trust them to grow your food. Get to know your farmer a little before signing up to see if your values align.
Knowing when and where to get your CSA box refilled is crucial to your CSA membership. CSA pick up’s may be every week, bi-weekly, or every month, depending on your membership. Some farms will require you to pick up your products at their farm, or at the local farmers market. Just check to make sure you are available at the pick-up time, or can make other arrangements.
Joining in on a CSA connects you with much more than fresh food. It will bring you closer to your community, your environment, and yourself. Please consider purchasing your food this year from a local farmer through one of their Community Supported Agriculture programs.
Photos: Elizabeth Adan
Jake Frazier is an outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Residential Ecology, a sustainable ecological resource management company. He uses existing natural systems to improve the quality of life for both humans and the Earth. Jake is interested in permaculture, living systems and exploring. Connect with him on LinkedIn.