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California CSA - Community Supported Agriculture Guide

What's a CSA?

A CSA, also referred to as a Community Supported Agriculture Program, is a program with the goal to put people who use farm-grown products, (which is most of us), and the California farmers who grow them together. This system works on a subscription basis. Subscribers can get a subscription to the produce service for either a growing season or for the whole year.

How California CSAs Work

Grocery shopping is a whole lot easier for California CSA subscribers. Instead of having to wade through the produce section weekly farmers do the work for them. Local farmers come up with 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 which is getting more popular around the country given it keeps out the middleman, guarantees farm-fresh produce at cheap prices, and is good for the environment because it decreases transportation costs, as well. CSA subscriptions usually run from early May through September or October, depending on where you live.
 

Benefits of CSAs in California

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

Often, it's less costly than buying produce through a CA supermarket, because it eliminates the middleman and links the consumer and the local farmer without any markup on profit. California CSAs help the local economy, too, since they maintain the revenue right in the area, instead of sending it to other countries or other states where produce may originate.

California CSA Programs Are on the Rise

Just a few short years ago, a CSA program probably didn't exist in your California community. They have definitely gained popularity 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're a great way for the consumer to get high-quality products without breaking the bank, too.

Primarily, the crops are organic, so health-conscious CA consumers know they're eating right, and community supported agriculture programs offer a wide array of options, including;

  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Flowers
  • Meats
  • Cheeses

You do not need to live right next to an agricultural area, either, often farmers will spread their produce around in many diverse cities to ensure 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 handled by local food co-ops or service organizations, while farmers often coordinate their own CSAs, too. If you know a farmer, determine if they're offering a CSA program, and if they're not, give them a hint! These programs benefit just about everybody involved, and they're simple to start and maintain, so there is no reason why your community should do without one.

CSA Apprenticeship in California

Even if you feel you cannot afford to belong to a California CSA, don't despair. Many farmers are providing apprenticeships for people who can not afford to buy 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 an excellent feeling. So, help a farmer, feed your family better, and save money by joining a California CSA in your area.