Community Supported Agriculture may not be brand new, but it is an idea whose time has come. Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s, have become increasingly popular as a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal produce directly from the farm. The concept is simple, and is based on seed money – literally.
What is a CSA?
A true CSA offers “shares” or subscriptions to the produce they grow. Subscribers pay a reasonable monthly fee, the farmer uses this money to plant seed and support farm operations, and the seasonal harvest is delivered to subscribers based on the subscription frequency they choose (e.g. weekly, bi-weekly).
Why would I want to join?
This system benefits farmers and consumers alike. The subscription model allows farmers to even out their income and expenses, and the subscriber receives a regular and varied supply of fresh from the farm local produce. The subscriber also shares some small risk with the farmer if, for some reason, the crops do not come in as planned.
Thaddeus Barsotti is one of three brothers, second generation farmers who own and operate Farm Fresh to You in the Capay Valley, west of Sacramento, CA. Farm Fresh to you is one of the oldest and, perhaps, the largest CSA’s in the country. The brothers run the farm that was started by their parents, graduate students at the University of California, Davis, School of Agriculture, in the 1970’s. When their mom died in 2000, they inherited the farm and the delivery business she built over 25 years.
“The chief advantage of a CSA is that the consumer is getting a certain amount of organic produce – which is good for you, of course – delivered on a consistent basis,” he explains. “This increases the amount of vegetables you eat, because hey – you’ve gotta get through your box. And people do eat all the veggies in the box because it’s easy to use something you already have in an impromptu manner. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll consume more vegetables than you would have bought at the grocery store. This also creates awareness in a young child that there’s a variety of fruits & vegetables that are good to eat. Opening the box is a family experience, with everyone going, ‘Oohh – what’s in the box this week?’ Kids really do try new foods, and getting the box makes them more adventurous eaters.”
Not only do CSA consumers get to eat produce replete with flavor and vitamins, but often they get the opportunity to visit the farm, develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food, and know they are helping sustain their local economy. Thaddeus’s brother Noah explains, “Our mother started Farm Fresh to You as a way to connect consumers with the farm that grew their food… giving people a connection to their food system and a vested interest in local, sustainable agriculture.”
Please hold the eggplant
CSA’s have a few pitfalls of course. When considering joining a CSA, find out what to anticipate in the seasonal deliveries; ask for a list up front to see what you might expect to receive, and ask about options for not getting foods you don’t like. Make sure you will be receiving a quantity of produce that suits your lifestyle, and ask about options for how often you get a box, and where you can receive delivery. Also find out in advance what the policy is for a vacation hold.
Variety is the spice of life
There are jokes about CSA’s that deliver four pounds of kale and six strawberries. For this reason, some CSA’s aggregate produce from other local farmers who are growing different crops, to ensure variety in the farm box. From society’s point of view, CSA’s provide sustainable relationships which give communities a local source of food, and local jobs. They connect people in cities to people in rural areas and, as was proven during 2011’s Hurricane Irene disaster in Vermont and New York, CSA’s helped farmers recover from the devastating floods that wiped out their croplands.
CSA’s are a partnership, forming a connection between people and the land. As a system, they can do good. They also help us live well.There are CSA’s all over the United States.
Find a CSA in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
Try this Farmer’s Market Meat Sauce recipe after your next trip to the farmer’s market! Farmer’s Market Meat Sauce
There are CSA’s all over the United States. Find a CSA in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/csa
Try this family recipe for stuffed pasta shells, generously shared with us by Farm Fresh to You.