We have belonged to a CSA for a handful of years. If you are reading this blog because you are interested in the same things that we are, then I probably don’t have to explain the ins and outs of a CSA. But for those of you who may be neighbors or family friends and reading this out of a kindness to Sarah and me, I’ll explain.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a share or subscription in a farm for a season. Typically, a shareholder pays a fee in the winter or early spring, so that the farmers have the money in advance of their growing season to back their costs upfront. In return for the fee, shareholders receive a portion of what is produced during the growing season, most typically allotted weekly, picked up at a local location, and often harvested on the day of delivery. Shareholders take a risk in riding the farm health and farmers experience/inexperience with that farm. If there is drought, flood, early frost, blight, bugs, or a particularly tenacious pack of hungry deer, a shareholder’s box might be barren for a week, or the subscription might even end early. On the other hand, if there is a bumper crop, you may come home with and extra ten pounds of cucumbers for a few weeks in a row. Often you end up with at least one item that you have no idea what to do with and/or makes you cringe thinking about being force fed it as a child.
There are CSA’s for farm produce, as well as things like meats, eggs, and flowers. There is currently no regulation of the CSA industry, so you should do your research on a farm’s history, farmer experience, and pesticide/fertilizer policies before signing up. Local Harvest is a good resource to track down local farms and farmers, but you might want to ask your neighbors for information, reviews, and to find nearby farms or delivery locations.
The short of a CSA is that you pre-pay for an undetermined amount and variety of ultra-fresh produce and support a local farmer. It’s like sending your friend to a Farmer’s Market with some cash and saying “Just surprise me.” It’s not for everyone, but I’d take braised turnips over cake, I can eat roasted beets everyday for a week, and my mother-in-law happily accepts the cilantro, fennel and my other undesirables.