Guest Author - Aimee Wood
It is enrollment season to sign up for your local Community Sponsored Agriculture farm share, or as it is commonly referred to, a CSA. For several decades, people have been purchasing farm shares. There is no better way to receive a box of weekly fresh vegetables or other farm products. This article will give you the ins and outs and the importance of CSAs.
In late winter or early spring do a google search on "local CSAs" or visit localharvest.org. You will likely turn up a dozen or so local farms in your area that offer a CSA farm share. Peruse their websites and ask local friends their opinions. Oftentimes, you can visit the farm or call and ask a farmer some questions. Ask the farmers how long they have been farming and how many members they have. Ask them if they are certified organic or if they follow sustainable farm practices.
Farms vary on what they offer and how they are set up. Some of them offer full shares (feed a family of 4) or half shares (feed a couple). Some farms require you work on the farm or help in some other way, some do not. Some farms require pickup at the farm, while others have pickup locations in neighborhoods or at farmer's markets. Some farmers supply boxes of vegetables they have picked each week, while others allow you to pick and choose.
Once you have chosen a farm or have decided you would like to partake in a CSA, ask yourself some questions. Are you willing to try out new vegetables? Make some new recipes with the items you are given? Can you make the weekly pickups? Often CSA pickups have a narrow window in which to pickup your goods. Are you willing to take on the risk of what Mother Nature has to offer? Some crops may do better than others during certain seasons and weather conditions. Talk to your farmer about any potential risks.
Generally, joining a CSA is a win-win situation for both the farmer and the consumer. Enrollment season for CSAs is during the time of the year when business is slow for farmers, in the winter. They also get to know the community. For the consumer, they get super fresh foods, they get to know the source of their food, and they support the local economy.
There's nothing more rewarding than picking up fresh veggies at the market on a warm summer evening. If you are lucky, you'll even get to chat with your farmer about a new vegetable you have yet to taste, while socializing with your community.