CSA: Community Supported Agriculture
Spring is (finally) here, which means that summer - my favorite season - is just around the corner. I am so excited.
You might think I love summer because I don’t have to wear a coat everywhere I go. Or maybe it’s the white wine on the patio which makes summer my favorite. You might think it’s the hiking and golfing and grass volleyball that makes this season so wonderful.
While these things are all very true, my very favorite part of summer is all of the fresh, local produce which is available just outside my door.
We’ve finally moved to our forever home where I can’t wait to start my own garden. But, alas, I still don’t have the space (or the time, energy, or know-how) to grow as many veggies as I want.
I am therefore ever thankful for my local CSA.
What’s a CSA, you Ask?
CSA is an acronym which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” It’s a way for local farmers to connect directly with their consumers.
Farms run their CSA programs slightly differently, but the general idea is a consumer purchases a “share” of the farm in the spring and then the farmer provides fresh, seasonal produce weekly throughout the growing season.
For example, we purchase a half share of Miller Farms’ CSA every year. We pay $450 up front and then pick up TWENTY baskets of produce anytime between June and November. There’s a farmer’s market right around the corner from where we live where we pick out our produce; we can choose what to put in the basket so we get exactly what we need. I didn’t even mention the Fall Festival tickets which are included in this price!
Other CSAs work differently; some deliver a basket of produce to your doorstep every week. Others allow you to go to the farm and pick your own produce. The common thread between all CSA is it links you with a local farmer for a true farm-to-table produce experience.
Why You Should Take Part in Your Local CSA
I am a huge believer in CSAs for lots of reasons, but here are my top three…
#1: A CSA Benefits the Farmers
Farming is hard work, you guys. It’s unpredictable, the margins are razor-thin, and the days during planting and harvesting seasons are long and exhausting.
When you purchase a CSA, you are essentially investing in a local farmer. The up-front cost of a CSA can seem like a lot of money, but can save you a lot of money over the season.
For the farmer, this up-front investment helps their cash-flow during the (rather expensive) growing season. Your CSA dollars are used for seed, fertilizer, and labor. Then you (the consumer) get to enjoy the dividends of your investment all summer long!
#2: A CSA Benefits the Local Economy
Most local farmers who participate in a CSA are small business owners who have close ties with the local community.
When you buy your produce or meat from a farmer’s market or CSA, these dollars recirculate in the community many times over what happens with your local big-box food retailer. This is called The Multiplier Effect: for every $100 spent, local businesses will re-circulate about $45 into the local area while large corporations will only re-circulate about $14.
Read more about why I believe in supporting local and small businesses in my recent post.
#3: A CSA Benefits YOU!
Remember how good veggies are for you??
The best, freshest, least expensive produce is available (literally) at your fingertips when you purchase a CSA. Quality matters when it comes to the taste and nutrition of vegetables, the main two components of quality being:
The point at which produce was picked during its growth: The ideal time to pick a vegetable is when is ripens on the plant. Vegetables picked too early so they can be transported half-way around the world without spoiling just don’t taste very good. The only way to find this kind of fresh produce is to either pick it yourself or buy it from someone who just picked it that morning!
The amount of time that has passed since picking: The longer vegetables sit on a truck (or in the store or on your counter), the more flavor, texture quality, and nutrients they will lose. Again, the best way to improve the quality is to visit the farm and pick the vegetables yourself!
In addition to these reasons, which benefit everybody, those most in need of inexpensive, quality food can doubly benefit by shopping at a Farmers’ Market by using their SNAP benefits (previously known as “food stamps”). Colorado has a program called Double Up Colorado in which SNAP dollars can be DOUBLED if used to buy fresh produce at certain locations, including Farmers’ Markets.
If you want inexpensive, fresh, and delicious produce please sign up for a CSA today!
How to Find a CSA Near You
It’s easy to find the closest CSA; here are a couple of tips:
Google it. I mean, Google can find anything, right? Including your nearest Farmers’ Market or CSA.
Check out www.localharvest.org - here you can search for Farmers’ Markets, CSA options, U-Pick options, and so much more!
Ask a friend! The best way to learn about local resources is often by word of mouth. If you know of a local CSA, tell a friend! Better yet, post your favorite CSA (as well as where it’s located) in the comments below.
Whether your veggies come from your backyard garden or a local market, I hope you find fresh, yummy vegetables to enjoy this season. Then if you need delicious ways to cook said veggies, check out how to roast veggies in just 3 steps!
With love & lots of fresh veggies from Peas and Hoppiness