Finally, the harvest is arriving! The chard and the lettuce in our backyard is producing well, the herb garden seems to be taking over, and the tomatoes and cucumbers have finally really taken off.
And last week we picked up our first CSA crate of the summer off the farmer's front porch. We always look forward to cooking up new menus that take advantage of the bounty we had received. Although our crate supplies much of our produce, we still shop at our local food co-op and the two local farmers markets for staples and for things to round out our meals.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a simple way both to support local farmers and provide your family with healthy, fresh, locally grown vegetables. In a CSA, individuals purchase a share of a farm’s coming crop. To become a shareholder, one pays up front for the entire season. In our area, the cost of a CSA share ranges from about $20 to $40 for each week of the harvest. CSA members receive a share of each week’s crop. Share size varies from farm to farm, usually providing enough vegetables each week for at least two adults.
Through a CSA, community members and farmers enter into a partnership. Pre-paid shares provide the farmer with the working capital needed to get the season started at a time when revenue might otherwise be slim. CSA members share the risks and rewards of the season with the farmer. Cool spring nights may lead to a bumper crop of strawberries and a slow start for the corn.
By working directly with the farmer, CSA members improve the sustainability of local farming both economically and environmentally. Most CSA farms practice sustainable non-corporate farming styles such as organic, "ecoganic," and biodynamic farming. By eating foods produced locally, CSA members further promote sustainability by cutting down on the distance their food needs to be transported.
CSAs build community as they encourage us to develop a relationship with the people who grow our food. Many CSAs hold pot-luck suppers, produce newsletters, and encourage members to visit the farm.
You can learn more about local CSAs at Local Harvest and Future Harvest.