CSA stands for “Community Shared Agriculture”. The CSA model connects consumers directly to farmers, allowing them to purchase goods (typically produce or meat) directly from farmers. This not only ensures that local farmers get the business and support they depend on, it also puts only the freshest quality farm produce, eggs, milk, meat and the like, directly into the kitchens of local consumers. This is food that has never ridden long distances in the back of a truck, sat in a warehouse, or wilted on grocery store shelves. The CSA model is catching on with most regions having access to at least some sort of CSA.
How Does it Work?
A CSA is simple. Members have to join, effectively purchasing a share of the farm. By joining, a member receives a regular quantity of produce, or whatever items the farm provides in their shares for a set number of weeks. The frequency will depend on the individual farm or co-op and membership requires a fee.
Some farms require that members pickup their shares from the farm or a local farmer’s market, while others ship or deliver them to a member’s home or office. A typical CSA season runs from June-November, but some can run year round, or for a different duration. On average, depending on the size and type of offerings, a typical season-long CSA could set you back anywhere from $300-$1,000.
Benefits of Joining a CSA
Membership in a CSA provides a wide array of benefits. These include:
- Supporting local farms–CSA memberships give farms a much needed boost in cash flow for the upcoming farming season. Payments from shareholders can help with purchasing supplies and seeds, and allow for more strategic long-term planning for day-to-day operations.
- Delivering the freshest possible items–CSA items are picked at peak freshness, and delivered to members within a few days of harvest. This ensures items contain the most nutrients and have the best taste. Items are typically grown locally, and do not have to travel very far to get to consumers.
- Strengthening community–members develop personal relationships with their farmers, and with each other. Farmers may benefit from word-of-mouth referrals as a way to attract new members.
- Experiment with different produce items–farmers typically grow a large variety of items, even more unusual things or heirloom varieties. This gives consumers access to items they would not ordinarily buy at the grocery store, or that they may never find in stores, helping them discover new food items.
- Knowing where the food comes from–this benefit is twofold. CSA’s provide the freshest, locally grown food, often grown without the use of harsh chemicals or pesticides. Farmers are happy to disclose their growing methods, as well as any substances used to grow their product.
- Promotes healthier eating–CSA items come directly from the source, eliminating the middleman. By delivering a hefty variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, or meats, members are, in essence, encouraged to make better food choices by having these options readily available.
Joining is Easy
The CSA model is rapidly expanding, with more and more programs cropping up across the country. This particular way of getting food may not be right for everyone, so it’s necessary to ask questions to learn how local farmers handle their CSA. Finding one nearby is simple. Local Harvest is website that matches those looking to join a local CSA with ones in their area.
CSA’s are important. They help local farmers sell their product, and result in fewer farms for sale.
National CSA day is February 22nd, 2019. This is the busiests day for new CSA signups. Farmers can take advantage by offering discounts or promotions, or even free items with every CSA sign up.