Organic Farming – Community Supported Agriculture: About CSA
June 12, 2013 by Organic Restaurant Staff Writers
What is a CSA?
CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a way for consumers and farmers to partner together. For more than 25 years, consumers have enjoyed seasonal produce directly from local farmers through CSAs, and this arrangement is becoming increasingly popular. Organic farming in general is the additional bonus to CSAs where some farms can produce USDA certified organic foods or if not, then other quality controlled all natural versions of their farm products.
How does it work?
A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. You typically buy a subscription or membership for the upcoming year in January or February. Then, during the growing season, you receive a weekly basket full of whatever fresh, local food is produced on the farm.
What’s the benefit for you?
CSA is a great way to get your produce (and sometimes grains, meat, and dairy if offered) during the growing season. But you could get all those things at the grocery store. Why choose Community Supported Agriculture?
- It’s local. The food from your CSA is as fresh as it gets, straight from the ground to your hands.
- It’s fun for kids. Most CSA memberships include at least one yearly visit to the farm. Kids will love getting to see first-hand how their food is grown and may be more likely to eat food from “their” farm.
- It’s fun for you! CSA allows you to develop a relationship with your farmer and learn more about where your food comes from. Plus, supporting a farmer instead of a grocery chain means supporting small business and local economy.
- You can try new foods. Although you can make special requests, you usually get whatever the farm has an abundance of in a given week. For example, maybe you always thought you hated tomatoes, but discover you actually enjoy organic heirloom tomatoes when you get a bunch in your basket.
What’s the benefit for the farmers?
CSA isn’t just great for consumers; farmers enjoy a host of benefits from community support.
- Farmers are the original entrepreneurs. Besides growing their commodity, they have to market themselves and sell enough to support their operations. Through CSA, farmers can do their marketing early in the season, leaving more time during the growing season for long working days.
- Receiving payment early in the year improves cash flow and relieves financial stress for farmers.
- By developing a direct relationship with customers, farmers are creating a valuable network of people who will advertise for them through word-of-mouth referrals.
- Many farmers whether USDA certified organic farmers or non organic farming organizations enjoy working directly with consumers more than selling to grocery chains or food conglomerates. Meeting the families that enjoy the food they grow gives farmers a sense of pride and fulfillment.
Things to Consider Before Joining a CSA
- Vegetable haters beware. You probably shouldn’t consider CSA if you don’t enjoy veggies. If you do, you’ll still have to get used to eating seasonally, instead of having the huge array of produce that’s available to you in a major grocery store.
- Be prepared to cook. The food you get from your CSA is going to be fresh and raw. You’ll have to do some level of prep in order to eat it.
- Are you constantly on the go? People who travel a lot may have trouble with community supported agriculture. You have to be available to either pick up or receive your weekly food, and you need to eat or freeze your food before it goes to waste. Make sure you take this into consideration when joining.
- You’ll have extras. Some weeks you may get just the right amount and mix of food to feed your family. Other times, you may get a lot of greens, or a ton of zucchini. Be prepared to share, prepare, or freeze everything you get.
- Share the risk. In community supported agriculture, you take the good with the bad. If your farm has a high yield year, you’ll get to enjoy the bumper crop. However, if your farm has a low yield year, you’ll get less. Joining a CSA doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a certain amount. Supporting a local farm just means that you’ll get your share of what they produce, so think about the possibility when you join.
Find one in your area!
Local Harvest allows you to plug in your location and find a CSA nearby.
Have you ever belonged to a CSA? What was your favorite thing about it?