Monday, March 21, 2011

What is a CSA and why should I care?

What is a CSA?

A friend IM'ed me a bit ago and asked me what Community Supported Agriculture is, after I mentioned it in a Facebook post. I thought I'd answer here. 

Baaaa! I'm going to make wool someday
used with permission, from Morguefile^
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a system where the consumer buys a share in a local farm, meaning that they agree to share the risks of food production in exchange for the reward of locally grown, high-quality food.

strawberry pie, cold strawberry soup, strawberry ice cream, 
strawberry-rhubarb jam...
used with permission, from Morguefile^

In our case, we bought a share in a local farm, entitling us to weekly deliveries of fresh organic produce for 26 weeks. It will be delivered to the garden center near our home, where we'll pick it up and take it home. We calculated that it'll cost a little more for the 26 weeks than we'd normally pay to buy from the grocery store, but we'll be getting a much larger volume of organic food, which we plan to preserve. In the end, paying a bit more at first should yield substantial savings later.

used with permission, from Morguefile^

There are CSAs for meat, fruit, veggies, bread, mushrooms, eggs, nuts, milk & cheese, honey, wool and fibers, even cut flowers. All of the products are grown/produced locally. Some farms even offer canning or preservation shares, where the customer receives enough produce to can, freeze or dehydrate. 

Dan's favorites: spicy pepper rings jelly, pickled peppers,
grilled peppers, peppers in Kimchi, baked peppers...
used by permission, from Morguefile^
And why should I care?

There are many benefits to joining a CSA:
  • Bountiful fresh organic food grown and produced locally, in season.
  • Our food will travel a shorter distance than food from elsewhere, cutting down on pollution, energy usage, shipping costs, and transit time.
  • Our food will be delivered in a large, reusable tub. No excess packaging to send to the landfill. 
  • Our money remains in the local community, helping local farmers, farm workers and businesses.
  • We can visit the farm where our food is produced.
  • The farmer benefits from having a guaranteed revenue stream. 
  • The farmer is able to try new or heritage strains and varieties, knowing that they have a guaranteed customer base. When those strains and varieties are successful, everyone benefits from buying food that better fit the environment and need fewer resources to grow. 
  • Everyone benefits from understanding the challenges, risks and rewards of farming. 

Eggplant parmesan, pickled eggplant,
Creole aubergine, Ratatouille...
used with permission, from Morguefile^
Want to learn more?

If you're interested in joining a CSA, take a look at the Local Harvest^ website  which lists participating farms by city or zipcode. They have lists of what participating farm offer, information about pick-ups, plus reviews from previous growing seasons. Alternately,  enter "CSA + _____ (your locale)" into a search engine.