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CSA - Community Supported Agriculture Guide


What's a CSA?

A CSA, also known as a Community Supported Agriculture Program, is a program with the goal to put people who use farm-grown products, (and that's just about all of us), and the farmers who grow them together. The program works on a subscription basis. Subscribers can buy a subscription to the produce service for either a growing season or for the whole year.

How CSAs Work

Grocery shopping is a whole lot easier for CSA subscribers. Instead of having to wade through the produce section each week farmers do the work for them. Local farmers put together a weekly basket of produce (sometimes meat and dairy as well) and deliver it to an established, central location, or subscribers can pick it up at the farm.

It's an idea that's catching on around the country because it cuts out the middleman, ensures farm-fresh produce at affordable prices, and is good for the environment because it cuts down transportation costs, as well. CSA subscriptions usually run from early May through September or October, depending on where you live.

Benefits of CSAs

What are the benefits of joining a CSA program? Well, the produce doesn't have to be transported to a warehouse or group of supermarkets, it's only transported once, to the pick-up location, so subscribers are helping save on fuel costs and spare the environment from emissions. One key benefit is that the produce is just about as fresh as you can get, because it's picked, sorted and delivered usually on the same day.

Often, it's cheaper than buying produce through a supermarket, because it does away with the middleman and connects the consumer and the local farmer without any markup on profit. CSAs benefit the local economy, too, because they keep the revenue right in the area, instead of sending it to other countries or other states where produce may originate.

CSA Programs Are on the Rise 

Just a few short years ago, a CSA program probably didn't exist in your community. They have really taken off in the last few years, and for good reason. They are a great way for farmers to know they are going to have a market for their crops, but they are a great way for the consumer to get high-quality products without breaking the bank, too.

Usually, the crops are organic, so health-conscious consumers can be sure they're eating right, and community supported agriculture programs offer a wide variety of options, including;

  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Flowers
  • Meats
  • Cheeses

You don't have to live right next to an agricultural area, either, often farmers will spread their produce around in several different cities to make sure all their crops are spoken for.

If you don't have a CSA program in your community, talk to a local community service organization about starting one. Some are managed by local food co-ops or service organizations, while farmers often organize their own CSAs, too. If you know a farmer, find out if they're offering a CSA program, and if they're not, give them a hint! These programs benefit just about everyone involved, and they are easy to start and maintain, so there's no reason why your community should do without one.

CSA Apprenticeship

Even if you think you can't afford to belong to a CSA, don't despair. Many farmers are offering apprenticeships for people who can't afford to purchase a membership for a season. You work in the fields for a pre-determined amount of time each week, and learn more about the business of agriculture, and you receive a share of the crops in return. Now that's a win-win situation for everyone!

At a time when we worry about the quality of our food, how far it's traveled, and how long it's been sitting in a warehouse before it finally arrived at the supermarket, these novel programs can bring a little more peace of mind about where dinner's coming from and teach you new skills at the same time.

Even if you don't want to work in an apprenticeship, you can usually visit the farm and actually see where your next meal is coming from, and that's a very good feeling. So, help a farmer, feed your family better, and save money by joining a CSA in your area.