Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Spring is coming: Join a local CSA

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Community-supported agriculture is a great way to help family farms and also get terrific, fresh, local produce. Here’s an article on taking the step—and it’s time to do it, as we head into spring. More efficient than going to a farmer’s market, you get your own box of veggies weekly (usually). The article begins:

So you’re thinking of joining a CSA?

Or maybe you’re just scratching your head right now, wondering: “A CSA? What’s that?” The answer, community-supported agriculture, is an arrangement in which customers pay up front for a share in a local farmer’s harvest, which is then distributed over the growing season.

The farms are generally smaller ones, often using organic or sustainable growing practices. Personally, because they’re a motivating factor in my cooking, I can’t get enough of CSAs and belong to–count ‘em–five: veggies, fruits, eggs, frozen produce in winter, and a “quarter hog” share.

How it works
The farmer sends whatever is ready and ripe, perhaps picked that morning, so you have little to no control over what you get (though a few CSAs now work on more of a “market” model). A meat share includes a variety of cuts, sometimes with specialty items such as charcuterie. Some areas even offer seafood shares.

Some CSAs deliver a box to your door, while others use a central pick-up point; ours drops at a neighborhood church and displays the produce to be collected via an honor system. The simplest, most direct arrangement might be if you live in a rural area and fetch your share from the farm. The farmer organizes the details, whereas in urban programs a volunteer team usually handles logistics and distribution.

What are the benefits?
You support local farmers by investing in a portion of the crop in advance and guaranteeing them a customer base. In return, you receive a basket of sparkling produce, fresher than what’s offered in most stores. You probably end up eating more veggies, too. The connection between farmer and consumer becomes closer, and you get to know the person growing your food. This is a great lesson if you have kids.

We receive a regular newsletter from our farmers, including recipe suggestions and invitations to visit the farms. At the season’s end, members may be encouraged to provide feedback: helping to shape, over the long term, what will be grown.

And there’s the matter of savings: by essentially buying in bulk, you save over buying comparable quality produce at the farmers’ market.

What do I have to lose?
The lack of choice may be a deal-breaker if you like your options (or, say, detest zucchini). And, since you reap the harvest along with the farmer, you also assume the risks. Last summer, for example, our region was hit with late blight, which all but wiped out tomato crops in the northeast. As a result, the usual plump, sweet tomatoes were no-shows. Loyal customers who had pre-paid for an extra “pantry share” of tomatoes opted to forfeit the money in solidarity with the farmer, instead of getting reimbursed.

How do I find my local CSA? . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: After thinking about it a few minutes, I googled “CSA monterey organic” and found a local CSA here and have now joined. Thanks, Janet!

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2011 at 9:07 am

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