What would you say if I offered you a weekly box of ultra-fresh, flavor to the max, organic, nutrient-dense produce at a reasonable price all while supporting your local farmers? This isn’t a ploy. My friend, this is Community Supported Agriculture.
Community Supported Agriculture, colloquially known as a CSA, is a unique agreement between a farm and the local community. Members pay in advance each year for a weekly share of farm grown produce. As members of a CSA, you join with the farmers in both the benefits — bountiful crops, open space, community, produce variety, direct relationship with farmers, access to u-pick, etc. — and the risks — crop failure, bad weather, disease outbreaks, weeds (1).
Each week you will have the privilege of eating vibrant, just-harvested produce. Say goodbye to wilted greens and tasteless tomatoes. Your produce will be harvested when it’s ripe and, in most cases, find its way into your kitchen within a day of being picked. This means better flavor and more nutrient-rich produce.
With a CSA share you can expect the freshest, most local produce, exposure to new vegetables (have you ever tried broccolini? You’ll want to!), an opportunity to learn more about where your food comes from, a chance to grow relationships with like-minded community members, and even the possibility to volunteer on the farm for a free or discounted share.
You’ll also find that many local farms have other offerings, such as honey from their own bees, a meat share if they raise cattle, and beautiful eggs from pasture-raised chickens.
Now that you’re drooling over the thought of freshly picked organic kale for dinner tonight, how do you find your very own local crop share? The first stop would be to visit your local farmers market. Chances are any farm with a CSA program will also have a farm stand. Second stop is an amazing online resource called Local Harvest (localharvest.org). Run by a small team of longtime food activists and passionate foodies, Local Harvest is a national directory that lists over 30,000 family farms and farmers markets, along with restaurants and grocery stores that feature local food. (2) If those first two options don’t yield positive results, then utilize a good ol’ internet search as a last resort.
You’ll find that the details of each farm’s CSA will vary, but generally speaking most will offer either a full or half share. Typically, a full share will range from $400-700 and will start in early spring, ending around Thanksgiving. I encourage you to either call or stop by your local farm to ask them about share prices, amounts of produce distributed, and length of season.
Assuming that you’ve been successful in your search for a local CSA, you’re likely wondering how to make the most of your share? Because we’re talking about only local, in-season produce, each box will truly vary from week to week. The harvest determines what and how much you will get. That’s the charm of a crop share. It provides a wonderful opportunity to exercise your creativity in the kitchen! Try new recipes, explore new cooking methods, and challenge yourself to make those weekly repeats in a few different ways.
Too much basil? Freeze some pesto. Overabundance of zucchini? Bake some bread. Something you really don’t like? Share with a friend.
So...what are you waiting for? Your ultra-fresh, flavor to the max, organic, nutrient-dense produce is in season! Get out there and crop share!