I’d love to tell you all about CSAs, but first, I should tell you what the acronym stands for. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture which is exactly what it is. The Palmentieros (as part of the community) support (with an upfront payment before the growing season) our local farmers. By purchasing these "shares" in the farm, it gives the farmer some cash flow before the growing season. For the past few years, we have been a part of two different CSAs. Most CSAs work the same way. In January or February, a payment is made to the farmer for a share in the bounty of the farm that year.The two CSAs, that my family have been a part of, are a little different than the norm. The first one allowed everyone to pick the vegetables that went into the basket. We were e-mailed a list of available vegetables on Sunday night and then we would return a list of the vegetables to be in our basket at pick-up.
Once the farmer begins harvesting vegetables, most CSAs will provide a weekly basket full of fresh vegetables and/or fruits that are picked that week. The baskets are either picked up or delivered to a central location.
One of the complaints about traditional CSAs is that there is no choice as to what is in the basket. So if your family doesn’t like kohlrabi or you don’t know what to do with it (I didn’t know what to do with it either before I joined a CSA), you were stuck. Who wants vegetables that you are not going to use?
The second CSA is very different. At the beginning of the year, we make a payment to our farmer, Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm, for her Cash Crop program. She then gives us a credit, to use in her marketplace on the farm, which is slightly more than what we originally paid. She uses our money for her upfront expenses but the credit allows us to buy more fruits and vegetables. I'd call that a win-win.
Benefits of a CSA:
- Going to the farm - By picking up my share from the farm, it gives me a chance to ask about how the produce is grown. The produce person at the supermarket can't answer that.
- Getting children excited about food - My children love going to the farm. One of the farms had cows, and the second one has chickens. They are learning where their food comes from. Sometimes they get to feed the animals. It's fun and educational!
- Trying new vegetables - As I mentioned before, it was certainly interesting to try new vegetables. This year I have used kale, both as a chip as well as in my smoothie. How about that for a new use!
- Cash flow - For the farmer, it is a great way for them to raise some funds at the beginning of their growing season, especially when they haven't sold much for a few months.
- Meeting new people - For both the farmer and the community, it's a great way to meet new people who are interested in where their food is coming from.
- Cost effective - Even though you may be in for sticker shock when you buy produce from a farm, you have to realize the value you are getting for those fruits and vegetables. Since it doesn't have to travel from far away to arrive in your local supermarket, the produce lasts longer! It has probably been picked the day you bought it.
By supporting your local farms through their CSA programs, you are keeping farms alive. There is a bumper sticker that I have seen recently that sums up the purpose of supporting farms, which says, "No farms, no food." By actively purchasing produce from a farm, you are increasing the chances of that farm staying financially viable. That in turn, helps to ensure that there is a place where you can get healthy, nutritious food without GMOs. And when we do that, it helps keep the earth healthy by supporting farms that are farming sustainably. Isn't that what you want in order to have a fertile lifestyle? I know I do.
If you are interested in finding a CSA near you, check out this link to Local Harvest: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/