For the last three years, I’ve been an avid CSA member and I love just about everything they to offer. Have no idea what I'm talking about? Keep reading to learn what a CSA is and five top reasons to join a CSA.
Community supported agriculture, or CSAs as they are commonly called, are organized groups of customers who agree to purchase seasonal “shares” of a farmer’s crops for a pre-determined season. When you join a CSA, you sign up for regular deliveries of vegetables and in some cases fruit, meat, eggs and/or dairy from the participating farm. The price tag might seem high, but in my opinion, the investment is absolutely worth it. Here's why:
1. Know Where Your Food Comes From
Most Americans know next to nothing about where their food comes from or what goes into growing it. Weekly visits to the CSA provide a chance to get to know the head farmer, tour the growing fields, and sometimes even work at the farm (i.e. work-share programs).
2. Experiment with New Produce
CSAs grow local, seasonal produce, some varieties of which you may never have heard of, seen, or used. By joining a CSA, you always get a variety and are given the opportunity to experiment with different fruits and vegetables, including things like celeriac, kohlrabi, and parsnips.
3. Access to Fresh, Seasonal, Local Vegetables
With a CSA, everything you get will likely be grown within close proximity to your home and picked when ripe, not frozen or chemically-treated to prevent spoilage and trucked across country before getting to you.
4. Support Local Farmers
In the age of large-scale, commercial farms, the small-scale local farmers are at a major disadvantage. By partnering with a farmer through a CSA, you are financially supporting the farm throughout the entire current growing season.
Additionally, the CSA model is built on the concept of shared risk. Typically, members pay up front for the season and the farmers work to provide an abundant box of produce each week for the duration of the CSA. This notion of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among CSA members and between members and farmers.
5. Protect the Environment
On average, food travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate, requiring high fossil fuel consumption and leaving a large carbon footprint in its wake. By supporting local agricultural, you are decreasing the agricultural demand on fossil fuels for transportation. Also, although many CSAs are not certified organic due to the hefty price tag associated with certification, most use few, if any, chemicals in their growing process. Ask your farm what their growing practices are (and any other questions about how they operate!) before you sign up.
Want to find a CSA in your area? Check out http://www.localharvest.org/, which has a great database of regional CSAs. The harvest season is starting, so now is the time to get signed up!