Spring planting, in full gear here, means a bounty of seasonal, local, organic eating that will build to the crescendo of late summer harvest. To make the most of the season, plan ahead. Along with celebrating community and health by shopping at farmers’ markets, the time is now to join a community-supported agriculture group, or CSA.
Local farms of all sizes offer CSAs. They work like this:
Members subscribe to a season’s share from the farm and, in return, get a weekly box of freshly harvested produce. Here are five top reasons to find a CSA near you and become a member today:
1. CSAs support small farms. When you buy a CSA share at the start of the season, you help provide a financial foundation for the grower and share in the risk of farming. If a weather disaster hits or a crop fails, all members are affected, but no one bears the brunt.
2. CSAs help you learn about farming. Each week, members receive freshly harvested produce (some farms also offer flowers, herbs, eggs or meat). You’ll learn about seasonality in your area and how a month of drought or rain affects crops. Many include a newsletter and even recipes to help you enjoy the bounty.
3. CSAs introduce you to new foods. Beets and beet greens may not be on your family’s regular menu, but if it arrives in your CSA box, you’ll be more likely to give it a try.
4. CSAs are often flexible to fit your family. Some offer half-shares for singles or couples; some have multiple pick-up sites. Shop around to find a perfect fit.
5. CSAs make you part of the farm. Some CSAs either require or allow members to work for a few hours a week on the farm, and almost all will let you visit and take a tour of the farm. For many eaters, this is their first experience of the source of their food.
To locate a farm near you with a CSA program, visit the Local Harvest site to search online for CSAs in your state, or ask farmers at your local market if they offer a plan. Join today, build a new relationship with local farmers, and share your CSA experience with us in our comment thread.
There are so many concerns to weigh when purchasing food: whether or not your choice is organic, not to mention the food miles, the impact, and the quality. There are plenty of “gray areas”. For example, a local farmer using organic techniques may not be able to afford to pass the expensive organic certification of a larger, more distant corporate-owned farm. There are no easy answers, but there are resources. CSA is one avenue worth investing some exploratory time in!
Image: Ryan McD