If you expected a scandalous tell-all post on local agriculture, I’m sorry to disappoint. This post is just featuring the beautiful invention known as CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. My personal experience with CSA’s is pretty limited, so I’m hoping you, the FLNW community, will add your own experiences in the comment section.
What is a CSA?
Again, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Local farmers offer individuals a share of their harvest. Members pay at the beginning of the season and receive weekly boxes of fresh produce for a set amount of time.
What can I expect in my box?
The standard is seasonal vegetables. However, each CSA is as different as the farmers who run them. Some offer flowers, honey, eggs, fruit, or other specialties of their particular farm.
How much do these shares cost?
I found shares as low as $420 for 22 weeks and up to $800 for 28 weeks. However, keep in mind these prices vary based on farm offerings, share size, and season length.
What are the benefits?
A couple years ago, I picked up a friend’s CSA box for 2 weeks while she was on vacation. I found it to be quite the cooking challenge. When I opened the box, I suddenly felt like a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped. I’d never cooked with eggplant or used lemon cucumbers before. Leeks? Kohlrabi? It definitely stretched my cooking skills and my family’s exposure to different vegetables.
In addition to the wide variety of fresh produce, you are also building a relationship with the farmer who grew them. You have a closer connection to your food and a better knowledge of how it was grown and harvested.
Meanwhile, the farmer is gaining the benefit of loyal customers and a good cash flow early in the season.
What are the drawbacks?
If you are too busy or overwhelmed to pick up and deal with the box of produce each week, this probably isn’t the best investment for you. Cooking seasonally with fresh produce definitely requires the ability to be creative, flexible, and spontaneous.
You are also assuming some risk in entering into a farm share. Farming, with its reliance on the weather, is an unpredictable art and skill. The zucchini might be producing like gangbusters while the tomatoes are a total bust. Each CSA handles these a bit differently. Make sure you ask good questions and keep your expectations reasonable.
Where do I start?
Head over to the Local Harvest farm database and search by location. You can scroll through the list of farms and compare prices and details. Some CSA’s will be closed at this point, but you should be able to find several in your area still accepting members.
Another tip is to ask your friends or crowd source on Facebook! It’s hard to really know what a CSA is like until you get into it, but a personal recommendation can go a long way.
Leave a comment! Have you tried a CSA? Any advice for the rest of us? Are you curious about CSA’s or have any questions?
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