|Some of the produce from my CSA this summer.|
What is it?
Community Supported Agriculture is when you, as a consumer, buy a share of a local farmer's produce. When the season begins and the farmer starts harvesting, you are normally given a weekly box of the fruits and vegetables being harvested. Some CSAs include additional options, like meat, honey, fresh flowers, or other products. The most awesome thing about CSAs is the risk you take on with your farmer. You pay for a whole season worth of food before it is produced with the chance that, for one reason or another, crops might fail and you won't get as much return as you hoped. It is a really special way to "go all in" supporting the amazing people growing your food. It's like a much cooler version of gambling, tons of community connection, none of the dirty Wall Street/Vegas dealings.
Is a CSA right for everyone?
As much as I love CSAs, they are not for everyone. Consider this before committing.
You might not like a CSA if:
-You aren't up for eating seasonal foods. For instance, you might get loads of peaches when you wanted apples, but apple harvest time has not yet started.
-You aren't up for dealing with real produce. Fresh food out of the ground, especially organic produce, looks, well . . . dirty. Its got some mud on it and maybe it has been a little munched on by some bugs, heck it might even have a few bugs still hanging around. If you don't want to wash up the produce and take a little extra time getting it prepared for your table, CSAs might not be your answer.
-You aren't up for dealing with portion variations. For example, your farmer might have loads of green beans, but not much fresh basil one week or zucchini like crazy, but only a few cucumbers.
-You aren't up for "veggie exploration." When I had a CSA in Africa, I learned a ton about preparing foods with parsley. Although it had never been a staple in our diet, it was in abundance in our weekly delivery, so I was forced to figure out how to use it all up. This summer I learned how to use Patty-Pan Squash, which I had never eaten before.
-You aren't up for alot of risk. Generally, farmers are incredibly committed to producing for their CSA, but alot can happen that has nothing to do with their efforts. If you are worried about forking over cash and having Mother Nature steal a little bit of it, going all in with your farmer might not be for you.
What's your CSA experience been like?
Overwhelmingly, my CSA experiences have been positive. I feel really connected to our current farm. I personally know the woman growing the food my family eats. A CSA is a great way to develop a close relationship, I am relying on the farmer for food and the farmer is relying on me for income. There is alot of shared responsibility in that relationship and it makes me feel good to know that my plate accurately reflects my values. We even came up with an arrangement where I take my compost to her each week. I pick up my CSA share and she takes my bucket full of scrapes. Eventually, the soil my farmer is growing food in will be enriched by compost from my own home. It makes me feel deeply invested in not just my farmer, but also the land in my community. I have also found it to be a very economical way to stay on the Paleo path. We ended up paying about $25/week this season for an enormous amount of local, organic produce, which is significantly less than we would spend in the grocery store. All those good feelings and financial savings aside, the produce was delicious. I don't have a single complaint about quality.
|Spending time with the adorable baby goats at "our CSA farm" earlier this spring.|
If you think a CSA would be a great way to feed your family, I suggest you start your search for a farm at Local Harvest. Local Harvest is an awesome online resource that can help you connect to real food in your area. It's a website that perfectly uses new technology to connect to traditional food!