By: FOG Intern Taylor Neilly
Farmers work diligently to grow and provide the very sustenance that nurtures, sustains, and contributes to the health and wellbeing of consumers. Some farmers take this responsibility a step further by ensuring that their produce is grown and harvested sustainably and in harmony with the environment. Supporting the hard work of these farmers is of the utmost importance in order to promote environmentally-sound agricultural practices and insure that we, as consumers, are getting the freshest, healthiest, seasonal produce and goods available. Visiting local markets is a great way to show support and get a share of the yield, but there is also a way to take that commitment a step further, by purchasing a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
By becoming a member of a CSA, you are essentially buying a portion of a farms’ (or multiple farms, depending on the arrangement of the CSA) harvest for an entire season. Typically, CSA enrollment begins at the beginning of every growing season when shares are offered to the public. Once a membership is purchased, shareholders receive a weekly allotment, a box or bag, of farm fresh produce and goods. Most allowances are also accompanied by a newsletter or pamphlet which highlights news from the farm, information about the produce and goods included in the week’s quota, and often times recipes and recommended methods of cooking the produce.
Some CSAs strictly offer produce from one particular farm, while other CSAs partner up two or more farms, or even local businesses, and offer a grab bag of various products like eggs, milk, cheeses, baked goods, and fruits, along with veggies.
Because of the diversity of the farms, it’s important for prospective shareholders to do a little shopping around before signing up. Do a little research, compare options and prices, is it a predetermined box or can you choose your produce, where are their pick-up sites, are there volunteer work options, what are their growing practices, recognize that cooking, if it isn’t already, will become a part of your life, do they offer any u-pick, can you visit the farm, and feel free to ask questions before making the financial commitment.
CSAs are a mutually beneficiary relationship for both the farmer and the consumer. Farmers incur costs before a seed is even planted and continue to have costs until the harvest comes in, when potentially they can have income flow in. CSAs offer the farmer a way for them to help cover the upfront costs of farming. Consumers and farmers are taking this risk together, for both the bounty of the harvest and the potential crop failure. CSA shareholders benefit by receiving incredibly fresh, local, seasonal veggies and farm goods. Additionally, it allows shareholders to try different varieties and/or produce they are not familiar with. Many shareholders express the joy in getting to know the farmer, his/her family, the farm and the farm’s other CSA shareholders, offering them a sense of real community. Ultimately, CSA programs offer a more intimate connection to the food we eat, the land from which it comes from, and the farmers who labor to bring it all to us.
With summer coming to an end, and fall quickly approaching, CSA signups are beginning for the upcoming growing season. If you are interested, get to know a farmer at your favorite veggie stand at a local market and/or check out the list of CSA farms on FOG’s website.