Everything you need to know about CSA
What is a CSA
Community supported agriculture (CSA) lets you to contribute to a local farm and receive delicious, fresh food in return. Shareholders often work directly with the farm with no middle man. So you know who you are supporting and exactly where the food is coming from!
CSA schedules often run during the main growing season for particular areas. In our region, that’s May to November; it may vary depending on the farm you choose. Most have weekly subscriptions with designated drop-off locations during the peak growing season.
What to consider when choosing a CSA
- The type of CSA:CSAs vary somewhat in the items included. Farms offer a variety of options like fresh produce, eggs, honey, meat, and even fresh wildflowers. Sometimes farms have specialized options for certain items. For instance, farms often sell meat in bulk (e.g., one eighth of a cow or half of a hog) rather than small portions. Each farm differs in what is included in their CSA program as well as à la carte options.
- Size and choice: Most farms offer a small or large CSA option. Typically, farms list the approximate number of family members they estimate the food in the subscription will feed. Another important point about CSAs is that the produce included depends on what is “in season” and will vary throughout the subscription. So you likely will get an array of foods as the weeks go on. Some CSAs will allow you to make choices as to what is included in your CSA, but this typically comes at a higher price.
- Farm practices: When choosing a CSA, take the time to learn about the farm. Many of them have websites and share information about their farming practices, what they grow, and their history. If organic foods or raising and harvesting means of livestock are important to you, it’s important to find a farm that aligns with your beliefs.
- Convenience: Find a CSA that has drop-off locations that work with your schedule and location. I found that many of the programs in our region have different drop-off locations each day of the week in and around the city and suburbs.
- When to subscribe: Most subscriptions take place early in the year. Some farms can only handle a certain number of shareholders. You typically pay your subscription up front in full (or a few smaller payments in some cases) for the entire season. This payment is part of what allows the farmers to purchase the seed, equipment, labor, etc. needed to run farm that year.
Why my family chooses a CSA
My husband and I try our best to grow a garden each year; however, we don’t have the land to yield enough produce to live off of. We decided to subscribe to a CSA this year and will be getting produce each week for 20 weeks. It’s important to us to have fresh, organic food and supporting local farms is the icing on the cake.
We chose a “non-choice” box, so we won’t have any say as to what we get each week. It will be a surprise! I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying new foods and recipes and will be sharing my experience with you along the way!
Not ready to make commitment to a CSA? That’s OK; visit your local farmers market where many of the same farms sell their produce. Some farms even have their own markets open daily! You can still support local farms but you get to pick and choose what and how much you want to buy!