The first year I had ever heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) was back in 2007. It was around the time that all of the recalls on spinach were happening, and I decided to make an effort to eat a more local diet. I was too late to the party that year, and instead relied on farmers' markets that were about 30-40 minutes from my house. Not exactly convenient, but I knew I was making the right choice for my family at that time.
I found a farmer at the farmers' market that talked about how his farm had a CSA, and that is where the majority of his vegetables went each week. I knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to have all of those vegetables, and decided that we would get a CSA share for the following summer. It helped to find out that this farm was 5 miles down the road, even though the farmers' market I was visiting was 30 minutes away.
A CSA share is where you pay an amount of money up front, before the growing season even starts, in return for a basket of food that you pick up each week. There are two different types of CSA shares that we have had. The first is what our summer share is. We go to the farm, and the farmers and apprentices have already put all of our vegetables and other goodies in a basket that we then transfer to our bags and bring home. The other share type that I have run into is what our winter share does. A selection of vegetables are set out on tables, each vegetable type has an amount associated with it, and you pick your veggies in the amount specified.
The one thing that I wasn't aware of with CSA shares was how quickly they fill up. The farm we get our summer share from is usually full by March, and our winter share by the mid summer. Do you know what that means? It is time to look for your CSA share now!
If you have never considered a CSA share, you should. Now, I know that getting the money beforehand is a difficult task, and there are also a lot of people that have a large availability of farm fresh fruits and vegetables available to them at a low price. Obviously, if you have access to a lot of farms in your area and buy directly from them, it may not be cost-effective to get a CSA share. However, if you don't have the time to go to many different places to shop, or don't have a lot of farm stores in your area, you should definitely look into getting a CSA share.
Where can you find a CSA share?
The best place to start would be Local Harvest. Not only does Local Harvest list CSA shares available in your area, it also lists farmers' markets, co-ops and other farm type shopping areas. If you are unable to find a CSA share available on Local Harvest, I would then google farms in your area. Even if a farm doesn't offer a CSA share, they may be willing to work out a deal with you. I know some farms at our farmers' market that give a discount when people pay ahead of time. If you pay $100 up front, you will get a credit for $115 at the farmers' market to spend.
The key to all of this is to look now. Most farms are planning their spring and summer planting right now. When you purchase a CSA share from a farm, you are giving the farmers immediate capital so that they can plan for their season, and provide their customers with the best variety possible. Not to mention it keeps money in your community.
I find that when I joined our CSA, it was a great community builder. It is a place that we have visited ever since my oldest was first born (picking up our first CSA share when she was just 3 weeks old!). Every week when we visit the farm, it is an event full of visiting chickens and sheep, talking to our farmer and the apprentices that work on the farm, picking herbs and flowers, and walking around the beautiful gardens. It gives my children (and me) a great connection to the food that we are eating.
Are you planning on getting a summer CSA share this year? Have you considered purchasing a winter CSA share before?
Linking up with Clever Chicks, the barn hop, healthy 2day wednesday, Your Green Resource
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