Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

We had a request from a fan for a post about Community Supported Agriculture – CSA – so here it is! Let us know if there’s a topic you want us to cover in an upcoming post!

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

In a CSA, farmers offer a number of “shares” to local community members at the beginning of the season. When community members purchase a share and join the CSA, they enter into a type of shared risk pool with the farmer and the other members. Throughout the season on a weekly basis, the farmer delivers to the CSA members their share of the week’s produce. Shares usually consist of a variety of vegetables, but in some CSAs farmers give their members the option of receiving fruit, dairy, or even meat with their delivery. The produce is all organic, but because of the lower cost of distribution, the cost of a CSA share is comparable to what you would pay in your grocery store (AND it comes with an added perk – since the food is grown locally, you can feel better about your carbon footprint!). The cost of a share is a few hundred dollars for the entire season (paid up front), and each share could feed a family of two to four people for a week (depending on your vegetable consumption).

What you get in your weekly delivery depends on what’s in season, and changes in type and volume throughout the season. Earlier in the season you might get more leafy greens, while at the end of the season you might find yourself with broccoli, squash, and potatoes. The season is typically 14-20 weeks long and runs from late spring until early fall.

Of course, belonging to a CSA isn’t always peachy keen. One big part of entering a CSA is the risk you share with the other members and the farmer. If production is low one season – due to pests, a draught, or whatever – you share the loss with the other members and won’t get as much in your weekly delivery. Also, in many CSAs members are required to pick up their shares at a certain place and time every week. This allows for less flexibility than buying your veggies at the grocery store. Because all the food is locally grown, you miss out on many produce items that you’re used to buying whenever you want at your grocery store (many CSA members supplement their shares with fruits and vegetables that aren’t available locally). On the flip side, you may find that you incorporate new kinds of veggies into your diet that you wouldn’t normally eat.

Some CSAs require volunteering hours. This may involve volunteering at a farm stand, assisting with deliveries, or even helping out on the farm. While this may seem like a hassle at first, many CSA members find that they feel more connected and involved with the farm when they volunteer. Children especially enjoy visiting the farm to see where their food comes from.

How can I find a CSA in my area?

Here at TBSC we’re a big fan of CSA and we encourage our readers to look into it for themselves. And this blog post comes at just the right time, as the start of the next season is only a few weeks away! To find the CSA nearest you, is a great resource. Eat healthy! Support local business! Save the planet!

Readers, do you have any experience with CSAs? Share them with us in the comments section!

1 comment:

  1. Eric, my mother and I are buying a share in a CSA here on Cape Cod this summer. We can't wait to share the bounty! Our CSA is through Surrey Farms in Brewster. We expect it to be fabulous. Combined with our garden, we'll be eating healthy all summer and fall. Our friend, Mara in Santa Barbara is the person who first introduced us to CSA. We were inspired by her positive experience and are so happy to be able to participate in one this year.


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