What Is CSA?

Home & Family, Living Green
on April 25, 2012

You may have heard the acronym “CSA” before, but if you’re like many people, you may not be certain what it is. Over the past two decades, CSA (or Community Supported Agriculture) has gained in popularity — and for good reason. Find out all about CSAs and how you can sign up for this great way to buy local, fresh, heirloom, unusual and seasonal produce — the way produce was meant to be enjoyed.

How does a CSA work? Local Harvest explains CSA: A farmer offers a number of shares of his harvests to the public. The shares of CSA are, in actuality, a box of abundant, varied, super fresh and local produce. Luckily, anyone can purchase a subscription or share to a local CSA. It is a delightful and nourishing, weekly (or so) gift for the whole family.

Why is a CSA a good thing? Community Supported Agriculture is a very beneficial idea that benefits both farmer and consumer:

  • Good for farmers — Farmers profit from CSA because they receive upfront money early in the season, freeing up precious cash flow. Farmers get to spend time marketing their produce early in the season and not during their busy time, when they’re working 16-hour days in the field. Another undervalued benefit is the deepening connection of the farmer to the community her or she supports.
  • Good for the rest of us — Consumers, perhaps, reap the most benefits from CSA. Without the work of cultivating your own garden, a myriad of fresh produce can be yours. The farmer’s multitude of crops offers the consumer an unbelievable selection of produce — new, unusual and old favorites. The food is as packed with vitamins and is as fresh as can be. The produce from a CSA is picked when it’s ripe, flavorful and ready — not when a big corporation says it is ready. Additionally, a trip to the farm can be a fun adventure for the kids and the entire family. Seeing where the food comes from can encourage kids to sample fruits and vegetables they normally would eschew.

How to get CSA shares. Many areas across the country offer local CSAs. Visit the Local Harvest website for information about what CSAs are local to you. The farms near you may or may not be taking subscriptions. A limited amount of shares are offered in a given year. Be sure to check early in the growing season for the best choice. Once you’ve selected a CSA farm you like, you may need to visit its website and download an enrollment form. Additional contact information is usually available for inquiries and more information. Each CSA is different in what it offers and how much it will cost. Do your due diligence ahead of time to avoid unwelcome surprises. Once a CSA member, boxes of goodies will be available at a pickup spot about once a week. Some CSAs offer half shares, which is a great way to be a part of the fun at a lesser expense. You can expect prices to range in the low to mid-hundreds, depending upon your location in the country. The typical growing season in the Northeast offers the produce from June to October. Growing seasons will differ depending upon climate.