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Illinois 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, (and that's just about all of us), and the Illinois 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 Illinois CSAs Work

Grocery shopping is a whole lot easier for Illinois CSA subscribers. Rather than needing to wade through the produce section weekly farmers do the job 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 really is a concept that's increasing in popularity across the country given it cuts out the middleman, assures 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, dependent on where you live.
 

Benefits of CSAs in Illinois

What are the advantages of joining a Illinois CSA program? Well, the produce doesn't need to be transferred 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 picked, sorted and delivered typically on the same day.

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

Illinois CSA Programs Are on the Rise

Just a few short years ago, a CSA program probably didn't exist in your Illinois community. They have truly gained popularity in the last few years, and for good reason. They are a great way for farmers to know they're 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.

Primarily, the crops are organic, so health-conscious IL customers can be certain they're eating right, and community supported agriculture programs offer a wide array of options, including;

  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Flowers
  • Meats
  • Cheeses

You do not have to live right next to an agricultural area, either, often farmers will spread their produce around in a number of distinct 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 maintained by local food co-ops or service organizations, while farmers often manage their own CSAs, too. If you know a farmer, determine whether they're offering a CSA program, and if they're not, give them a hint! These programs benefit almost everybody involved, and they are easy to start and maintain, so there is no reason why your community should do without one.

CSA Apprenticeship in Illinois

Even if you think you can not afford to belong to a Illinois CSA, don't despair. Many farmers are offering apprenticeships for people who can't afford to purchase a membership for a season. You're working in the fields for a pre-determined amount of time each week, and find out 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 Illinois CSA in your area.