A few days ago, our neighbors called to see if we would be interested in picking up their basket of produce from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program they participate in, because they were going out of town. I happily accepted — awhile back I had looked into joining one of these programs but had never followed through, so I was anxious to see what it really entailed.
If you’ve never heard of a CSA program before, here are some details according to Local Harvest, the website that organizes CSA Farms in the United States: A farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a membership or a subscription) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Advantages for farmers:
- Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16-hour days in the field begin
- Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
- Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
- Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from their farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
I picked up our neighbor’s share yesterday afternoon. It was filled with different types of lettuce, red potatoes, carrots, radicchio, onions, parsnips and basil — all super fresh and the farmer was nice enough to include some recipes, too. I grilled some parsnips (I have never eaten parsnips before) for us and they were delicious, even my two-year old gobbled them up.
Many CSA Farms are not just limited to produce. Some include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies.
I am totally sold on joining a CSA program. If you’re interested in finding out more information about CSAs, go to their website (www.localharvest.org/csa).