I first learned about CSA last year when I heard people talking about a CSA farm in our area. I was interested because I was trying to get my family and animals on an organic diet and an organic horsekeeping regimen and I was looking for ways to find organic produce. Beyond that I did not even know what the initials CSA stood for. When I contacted the farm, I discovered the time for buying shares had passed for the upcoming season. I did more research on the CSA movement so I would be ready for the next year.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Interested people pay for shares in the farm at the beginning of the year in February and March and then each week through late spring, summer and fall, you receive a share of the produce. CSA or community supported agriculture is an amazing vehicle for those who want to eat locally grown produce and support local farmers. We sent in our payment in March and received our first share in late April. All I can say after an incredible summer of beautiful produce is that CSA has been a huge success for our family.
Quality-the produce we received from our CSA, Taproot Farm, has been of the highest quality and freshness. It lasts a long time in the fridge too. This is very different from organic produce purchased in the grocery store. When I shop for organic items there, they are always a little more shopworn because they are not treated with preservatives.
Affordability – Organic produce is extremely expensive in the grocery store. I was not sure how much would be included for the price of our share and how it would compare. It has been great for our budget. We went with a half share and when the cost is divided by the number of weeks, it has been less than $25 per week. We have also cut out many trips to the grocery store and farmers market which is another savings to the budget.
Safety-Worrying about the safety of the food I feed my family has been a huge health concern for me over the last few years. I love to cook, so eliminating processed foods from our meals was not so hard. The bigger challenge has been my fears about genetically engineered foods (GMOs) as I moved to including more vegetables and fruits. I have been amazed at how much more I enjoy cooking and we all enjoy eating the food I prepare from our weekly CSA produce because we know it is locally and organically grown.
Variety-I grew up in the South and was raised to love cooking (and eating). This was especially true of vegetables. There is nothing more I enjoy than a pot of green beans or yellow squash. I also love gardening. The thing that is amazing about belonging to a CSA farm is that we received so many items that even an avid gardener will probably not grow as well as the experts. A big question I have encountered with friends I have told about CSA is that they are afraid they will receive items they do not want or so much of one thing they will be bored. It has not worked out that way for us. We have enjoyed being exposed to many things that we could not have grown and that are expensive at the store. Eggplant is an example. I had never eaten fresh turnips or bok choi, two wonderful items that we received and now they are favorites.
Community– Last but not least has been the way our CSA has helped us connect to our new community. I teamed up with a new friend to take turns picking up the weekly produce. That led to stopping over for coffee. Our CSA added products made by our members to the cottage where we pick up our produce. I was able to enjoy things made by others and to display the Quincy the Horse books. Our CSA arranged with other local producers to offer bread shares, mushroom shares and fruit shares. As the CSA harvest winds down, we are beginning our incredible fruit share with a local orchard. Taproot Farm and North Star Orchard have websites where they display and share information, ideas and recipes throughout the season.
As you can tell, I am a big convert to the CSA movement. I have been impressed with the creativity and organization of our local growers at Taproot Farm but I am sure that this model is used in many communities. This has brought such a breath of fresh and positive energy into our lives. I hope more and more people try it out.