How old is that tomato in your hand at the local super market? A few days? A week? How long until it will begin rotting once you get it home? What types of pesticides were used on the crop? All of these questions are impossible to answer as a shopper looks at produce from their local grocery store. The only way to know for sure how it was grown is to get it straight from the farm. But is that a reality for shoppers living in cities, even the suburbs? Well maybe it is with your very own community supported agriculture (CSA).
Community supported agriculture is not a new idea of course, but it is gaining in popularity with people living in such places as they become more vigilant about the foods they eat. Plus, with the affordability of online communication such as websites for farms, and emailing to send out crop lists and delivery times, running a CSA is easier than ever for everyone’s participation.
Just like buying shares in a company, community supported agriculture allows families to buy shares of your farm crop for a season. Now, this doesn’t mean a share of the entire crop a farm grows, but rather CSA farms have set fields or rows dedicated to CSA crop yields. Shares range based on the number of people you expect to feed.
Each week the CSA farm designates a variety of vegetables and fruits as a share. For example, one week in spring for a farm in the Southeastern United States a share could include various amounts of beans, carrots, beets, corn, strawberries, peas, squash, lettuce and greens, cabbage, tomatoes, and turnips. Once you set the amount of produce one share equals for the week, families receive produce amounts based on the number of shares purchased.
CSA is not without risks. Families buying shares will not get a refund even if poor weather or other problems affect the CSA crop yield. But as we know the chances of not getting anything are very slim. And let’s face it, shoppers are not protected from poor weather conditions or crop blights at the grocery store either. So when adverse growing conditions affect regions, the prices on produce at the local grocery store increase accordingly. (Something to think about, right?)
Delivery of CSA produce is handled differently by each farm. You might elect to have share buyers pick up the produce at your location, or at a centralized location between the farm and urban living areas. Many CSA’s are managed in a grass roots style, so families can also arrange to “carpool” the vegetables with other CSA participants and switch off pick up weeks. A rarer option is personalized delivery of CSA produce, but that usually comes with an extra cost.
A final benefit of your own CSA is in bringing the family to the farm. CSA farmers are glad to show families where the crops are grown and teach children how their favorite vegetables and fruit go from seeds to snacks. And there might be ‘pick your own’ days where CSA participants can bring containers and pick strawberries or beans directly from the fields.
Participating in a CSA helps farmers and urban families have more control over the environment. You are helping to cut down on the amount of produce shipped by truck (usually across the country) and helping to better protect the earth. People feel good about their part in it, by supporting a local farm they know they’re buying fresh produce free of pesticides and artificial enhancements, and reducing green house gas emissions. When they participate in a community supported agriculture program they can save money on produce, and bring the freshest food home to their family’s table.
Find CSA information and opportunities in your area: Resources For Women Who Want To Farm