3/14/2018 0 Comments
What does CSA mean?
A CSA program is a Community Supported Agriculture Program and perhaps one of the best things you can do for your health, your finances and the environment.
No big deal.
If you’ve been sleeping on CSA programs, stop and don’t be so hard on yourself. These programs started coming into the norm in the 1990s, but 30 years later they’re still not getting the attention they deserve. Seriously.
The most popular CSA program content on the interwebs in the last year only received 207 social media shares. That number ought to have been like 300 million. Perhaps I’m being a bit excessive there, but these programs are awesome and genuinely one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Stick with me and delve into why Community Supported Agriculture Programs deserve more attention, namely yours.
How does community supported agriculture work?
For starters, as much as I’ve built it up, they are really simple. A farm sells a certain number of shares, which are portions of their projected produce, early in the year before their produce is ready. These shares are generally called baskets or boxes. Each week throughout the growing season you get to collect your delicious share or basket.
You enjoy delicious, FRESH produce at typically a significantly lower cost than the boxed grocery stores. By purchasing a CSA share you are becoming part of a community that supports their local farm. You’re also more likely to eat the fresh produce your purchased and thus become a well-nourished member of your new-found community.
Some CSA programs have you come to the farm to pick up your share, which helps you connect with the farm as well as other members of the CSA program. Some even offer tours. This is a great way to share with children where their food comes from, which gets them engaged and excited about the produce you bring home.
Children are more likely to eat food when they are familiar with the farm it comes from, AKA ‘their’ farm. This actually works on us grownups too. Even the pickiest of child or grownup doesn’t want food ‘their’ farmer grew going to waste.
Some CSAs deliver right to your doorstep. This is perfect for someone who is constantly on the go and trying to figure out how to work delicious, nutritious food into their life. Coming home to a box of local produce on your doorstep makes for a great way to end the day.
Because of the immense benefits of CSA programs, more and more workplaces are collaborating with local farms to create a CSA for their employees. Typically, that means your employer sets everything up and all you do is pay and pickup at your office, where you were already hanging out. This is a great way to boost employee morale and help improve the health of your staff.
I will totally write a letter to your boss stating just that if you’re trying to convince them. Ha! But no, seriously, email me and I’ll make a bullet pointed list of all the measurable reasons it’s a good idea.
Another style of CSA program is mix-and-match or market style. This type of CSA program has you pay your set amount for the season and you get to pick and choose each week what produce items you’d like. That way you’re not dealing with 12 weeks of unrelenting mangos… not that I’m traumatized 7 years later from that happening to me.
Most CSA programs will allow you to take an ‘off’ week here and there. In fact, most work it into their program given that the growing season is also prime summer vacation season. Generally, the number of weekly shares covered in your CSA program is slightly less than the total number of weeks in the season, this allows you to get your money’s worth and not worry about rotten tomatoes. Nothing ruins a beach vacation like worrying about tomatoes.
This is not always the case, but it’s probable there will always be someone willing to take your basket for you. Delicious food has a way of bringing out the altruism in people.
Finally, here’s an exciting take on CSA programs that will have you squealing with delight. There are FLOWER CSA programs. Yes. Flipping seriously. You can get local flowers once a week. This is excellent for anyone who loves flowers and a total ace card for any forgetful men… I mean lovers of any gender who would like to come home to a few less cold shoulders.
How to get started with a Community Supported Agriculture Program?
You’ve made it this far and you like what you’ve read. You’re totally convinced that a CSA program is the best idea ever (it is) and you’re ready to jump on in. Yay! I knew you’d love this.
As in most cases Google is your best bet. Simply search for community supported agriculture and the name of your city. You can also use LocalHarvest.org.
Using LocalHarvest.org here are the CSA programs that I found that there are 37 CSA programs in my area, including a flower one with a florist down the street from me. Hey Pine State Flowers! We're about to become real close friends.
The one I love the most and am choosing to go with for this growing season is Funny Girl Farm. This is a perfect example of how and why a community supported agriculture program works. I literally, not figuratively, know the farmers and have been to the farm – I feel a sense of community with them.
Also, I am a big fan of doing whatever I want, when I want, so I love that their program allows me to spend my share mix and match style at their farm stand instead of being bound to what’s in the box. They have the most adorable chickens with the happiest of lives. This puts an end to my grocery store meltdowns about the ‘ethical’ eggs being packaged in a horrific amount of plastic.
I get delicious, local produce while oogling cute chickens at a farm stand that is a 10-minute drive from my home. Again, this is magic.
I also appreciate that I can join the CSA program even though it’s already began rolling. Funny Girl Farm prorates their program based on the number of weeks remaining. I’m originally from the cold, so the idea of a CSA starting before May or June is mind-blowing.
I also appreciate that I can set it all up online. Seriously. You fill out this form and POOF. Done deal. They also let me know what to expect in addition to cute chickens. This spring I’ll be enjoying strawberries, mushrooms, kale, collards, rainbow chard, cauliflower, broccoli, fennel, beets, lettuce, carrots, spinach, salad mix, baby kale, adorable baby bok choy, turnips, radishes and herbs like cilantro, dill and parsley.
I won’t be enjoying the arugula because I have never enjoyed arugula. The mix-and-match option of the market style CSA program is where it’s at!
Their summer produce includes basil, tomatoes, peppers, okra, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, watermelon and more. Again, I’ll be opting out of cantaloupe, because my CSA program gives me options. Know who you are and what you value in all cases. Ha!
Are Community Supported Agriculture Programs worth it?
In short, yes!
Your local farm of choice gets to enjoy a steady stream of income and customers. You get to enjoy improving your health with delicious, locally grown produce while saving a lot of money and trips to the store. Together you create a community, something we humans need.
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