A growing trend – Community Supported Agriculture

Posted by on Jun 2, 2013 in Food | 1 comment

A growing trend – Community Supported Agriculture

Spring has come, albeit a cool one, and we are just around the corner from the opening of local farmers markets. The farmers have been preparing the earth, enriching the soil, plowing, planting, and starting seeds to get ready for the season, and we await the delicious bounty that our local food producers will soon be bringing to market.

Besides farmers markets though, there is another way to support local agriculture: through buying a share of a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. This is a way to directly invest, so to speak, in a local farm, to share the costs and rewards of farming, and to get a lot more up close and personal with the ups and downs of food production.

For those of you who don’t know, buying a CSA share means that you directly pay a farmer for a “share” of his or her crops and you will receive vegetables (and usually herbs, sometimes fruits, and even, depending on the CSA eggs and/or meat) directly from the local grower. This comes in the form of a box of produce that you pick up at a local pick-up center, at the farm or it can even be delivered to you.

What is in the box depends on what is growing at the time. If you go to the farmers market in your area you already have a sense of what is ready to harvest when. For example, here in New England you don’t see eggplant in the farmers market in June. Consequently, you won’t see them in your CSA box in June either.

Depending on the farm and the success of the growing season, the box could be enough to satisfy two veggie lovers’ needs for a week, more or less. If you have a small garden or if you’re single, you might consider getting a half-share, which are available at many CSA’s.

Besides getting incredibly fresh and delicious vegetables for several months, CSAs give you  the satisfaction of knowing that you are giving invaluable support to a local grower.

It is easy for us to forget that farming is an uncertain business. We are so used to going to the grocery store and finding the fruits and vegetables we want pretty MUCH any time of year. So we sometimes don’t appreciate what individual farmers go through–rain or lack of it, freak storms, or unexpected insect infestations, etc. For a farmer who sells shares at the beginning of the season through a CSA, part of his and her income is already guaranteed and all involved share in the risks inherent in the vagaries of Mother Nature. So if you buy a share, you are helping to insure the survival of local agriculture.

Another plus of buying a CSA share is that you will be receiving a “mystery basket” from your farmer every week. This is sure to broaden your culinary horizons.

Ever tried rutabagas? Collards? Well, if you get them in your CSA box you will have the opportunity to experiment with something new and outside your comfort zone. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a new favorite vegetable by the end of the summer! And if you’re really stumped, send me an e-mail and I’ll see if I can help you figure out what to do with an unusual offering from your CSA. Maybe it will become the subject of a future newsletter.

How do you find a CSA? If you do an internet search on “CSA” and your state you will easily find a listing for ones in your area. Here in Rhode Island, Farm Fresh Rhode Island  keeps a listing on their website. The cost of a share ranges anywhere from $250 – $650, depending on the farm and the size of the box you’ll be given each week.

If you would like to buy into a CSA, do it soon. Shares do sell out and the season has begun. If you feel that’s too much for you right now, please do support your local farmer in whatever way you can-go to farmers markets, pick restaurants that buy locally, or look for local produce (many supermarkets now mark local produce). You’ll help the local economy, you’ll help the planet, and you’ll eat better.

So happy spring everyone, and good eating!

1 Comment

  1. I agree. Farmers Markets are a great way to go if you can’t get into a CSA. We need to support local farmers of all sizes.

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