Friday, March 23, 2012

What is a CSA?

We love our house because it has beautiful tall trees all around it that provides much needed shade in the hot southern summers. However, because of that our yard isn't very conducive to photosynthesis. In the past we've relied on and belonged to a couple of CSA's. We love getting fresh, local produce weekly/monthly throughout the growing season and it's that time again to start thinking about joining one.

What is a CSA?

A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In a nut shell you're supporting the farm before it produces any produce. Local farms sell "shares" of their yield and every week you can pick up a share of vegetables, cheese, meat, fruit, and other goods that the farmer has produced.

  • It's as local as local can get! The main benefit of a CSA is getting locally grown goods. Not having your food travel 1000's of miles and using lots of oil, is awesome! You can't get much more local than right in you own town or county!
  • Freshness- Most farmers pick the produce a day or two before delivery/pick-up. This means peak freshness from vegetables that aren't going to have to be pick early in order to ride on a truck across country.
  • Quality - With grocery store produce, you just never know what you're going to get. In a CSA, providing you do the research, you're farmer is dependent on giving you the best product possible.
  • No packaging - this is a biggie for me. I hate seeing produce in packaging. It hurt's my feelings...a lot. Most shares come in a reusable container or bag!
  • Variety - You'll get to jump out of your comfort zone and try new veggies you may not have wanted to try due to price or comfort level. Once it's in your kitchen it's fair game! Some farms also grow heirloom varieties, which are super tasty!
  • Local Economy - with a CSA you're supporting your local economy and local food sources. By supporting these types of businesses and farms, communities can ensure there will be food sources and goods in the future. You're money is going directly to the farmer.
  • Eating Seasonally - since the produce is picked fresh before delivery, you'll ensure you're eating seasonally. It's awesome to see when the different vegetables come in.
Photo of our actual share in May 2011
What comes in a share?
It depends on the farm. We've been apart of a CSA that gave us meat and cheese along with a few vegetables and fruit. Most, however are just growing produce. Be sure to check out the details or ask the farmer.

How much is a share?
This also depends on the farm. Some organically certified farms are going to be pretty steep. However if you talk to the farmer and ask about their growing methods, many times they are growing organically or sustainably but just aren't certified. For a regular season expect to pay between $300-$600 per share. Some farms also do half shares and work-shares (where you can work on the farm to get a discount).

WOW, that's a bit expensive!
Yes, it might seem that way because you're handing over a large amount of money at the beginning. However do the math. Around here in SC most CSA's are from May-Sept. That's five months or 20-25 weeks of produce. For a $400 share that comes to around $20-$25 per week for fresh, local, sustainable produce! You just can't beat that.

Local Harvest - is a great resource for finding local food in your area
Eat Wild -  Directory of farms in your area
Google your state and "CSA"

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