What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is essentially a marketing and production model where consumers buy shares (sort of like a subscription) of a farmer’s harvest.
To become a member, the consumer usually pays the farmer in advance for the upcoming growing season, paying a lump sum initially, or making payments throughout the season.
Why are CSAs good for farmers?
By having monetary funds in advance, farmers are able to buy seeds and other material necessary for the upcoming season. It also provides income immediately for the farmer. The farmer can focus more on tending to the land and growing quality food. Also, the farmer is able to make connections and relationships with people in the community.
Why are CSAs good for consumers?
By investing in several months of fresh food, consumers not only get a variety of foods, but also foods at their peak taste and ripeness - food is fresher and healthier. Additionally, it allows the consumer to enjoy and explore new foods that they may not have enjoyed before. The consumer can work with the farmer to potentially customize their subscription, with several farmers offering not only vegetables, but fruit, herbs, spices, meat, dairy, and other products. The consumer is able to know where the food is coming from, how it was grown, and feel good about their choices. Some farms offer educational and social events to further interact and engage with their consumers. Also, the consumer is able to create a connection and relationship with the farmer.
How do I find a CSA?
You can look up farms by using the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service via their Local Food Directories: On-Farm Market Directory or Buy Fresh Buy Local’s Directory (and see if there is a local chapter near you).
How do I pick a CSA?
Some questions you should ask yourself when looking at different farmers' CSAs include:
- Do they have the variety of produce I’d like?
- What are their price, size, and frequency options?
- What is their growing process (do they use regenerative agricultural practices, are their produce organic, etc.)?
- How customizable are their packages?
- Where are their pickup or delivery locations?
- Do they offer any extra benefits, such as educational opportunities, cooking demonstrations, help with how to use or cook the products, etc.
Go out and find a CSA, get plugged in, start buying, cooking, and eating delicious, nutritious food straight from your “backyard!”