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Maryland 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, (which is most of us), and the Maryland farmers who grow them together. This program works on a subscription basis. Subscribers can purchase a subscription to the produce service for either a growing season or for the whole year.

How Maryland CSAs Work

Grocery shopping is a whole lot easier for Maryland 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 which is increasing in popularity across the country since 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, based on where you live.
 

Benefits of CSAs in Maryland

What are the benefits of joining a Maryland CSA program? Well, the produce does not have to be transported 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 significant advantage is that the produce is just about as fresh as possible, because it's chosen, sorted and sent usually on the same day.

Often, it's less costly than buying produce through a MD supermarket, because it gets rid of the middleman and connects the consumer and the local farmer without any markup on profit. Maryland CSAs help the local economy, too, simply because they keep your revenue right in the area, instead of sending it to other countries or other states where produce may originate.

Maryland CSA Programs Are on the Rise

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

Generally, the crops are organic, so health-conscious MD individuals can be certain they are eating right, and community supported agriculture programs offer a wide array 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 a number of distinct cities to be 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 handled 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 everybody involved, and they are simple to start and maintain, so there isn't any reason why your community should do without one.

CSA Apprenticeship in Maryland

Even if you feel you can't afford to belong to a Maryland CSA, don't despair. Many farmers are offering apprenticeships for many who can't afford to purchase a membership for a season. You're working in the fields for a pre-determined period of time each week, and find out 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!

During 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 reached 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 Maryland CSA in your area.