Today I sent off my check for this year’s CSA (community supported or sustained agriculture). For those of you that are unfamiliar with the CSA it’s an arrangement with a local farmer to pay for a weekly delivery of produce throughout the growing season. Sometimes it’s picked up at the farm, usually it’s delivered to a location on a prescribed day for collection. It’s kind of like investing, but with vegetables – you pay the farmer in advance and in turn you receive a portion of the harvest, along with other members. If it’s a bad year, you get less. If it’s a good year, you get more. The farmer has an interest in making you happy so that their customers (and income) will be there year after year.
CSA’s have many benefits and I’d encourage anyone to look into becoming a member of one in your area. First, you secure a supply of fresh, high-quality produce for the year and you know exactly where it came from and how it was grown. You may wind up getting exposed to some new vegetables – usually they provide some info on how to use some more obscure things. Although the first CSA I tried wasn’t a very good one, I will admit that my horizons broadened quite a bit the first year with new vegetables and info on how to use them. When you join a CSA you become part of a community of “shareholders” in the farm and can meet some new like-minded folks. This year we met up with the other shareholders from our CSA at the farm for a potluck towards the end of the season and had a great time meeting everyone and seeing the farm – it was one of the highlights of the fall for us. If you aren’t able to keep a garden, the CSA is a good alternative – you’re basically paying someone in your community that knows what they’re doing to do it for you and probably come up with a wider range of crops than you would. The money you spend on a CSA membership stays within your area and allows a farmer to make a living, instead of sending it off to the Jolly Green Giant on the other side of the country (or world!).
Honestly, this year we could probably produce almost all of our vegetable needs in our backyard, especially considering we’re going to ramp up the operation by adding a few new beds in. However, we enjoy being a part of the CSA and feel we get a good value out of it and want to support this kind of farming. We’ll just be able to put up a little more for the winter this year.