Consumer Supported Agriculture (known as CSA) has boomed in the last 20 years. More and more people are discovering the benefits to buying food locally. Not only is the food fresher than anything in the supermarket, it also is more nutritious, flavorful and diverse. The wide range of produce and other products available from a local CSA will introduce you to new things and revive old favorites. Choosing a CSA sometimes can be confusing, though. Keep in mind these five factors when thinking about joining a CSA.
1. Location. Finding your nearest CSA farm is as easy as visiting Local Harvest and entering your ZIP code. You can pick from the list of the nearest farms that offer CSA. Some regions have more CSA opportunities than others. Many CSAs will drop off the food box at a common location or deliver to your home. Others allow for pick-up at the farm, which is really fun for kids. A heartfelt side benefit is that it is really nice to get to know your local farmer and vice versa. Make sure, though, to ask plenty of questions when choosing among the many options: How long have you been farming and participating with CSA? Are the items in my share from your farm or others as well? How were last season’s crops? Can you refer me to current members for references? These questions will assist in finding a good CSA.
2. Product selection. The typical share provides a big box of various produce, depending upon where you are in the growing season. CSAs in the Northeast typically offer subscriptions starting in April and running through October. Warmer climates offer selections all year. Can you imagine a fresh avocado in winter? How about a sweet and juicy mango in the fall? Florida and other warm climate CSAs have that advantage. What comes in each box may vary from week to week and year to year. That’s the fun of a real, local farm.
3. Additional products. A lot more than fresh local produce is available at some CSAs. Knowing what kinds of things will be in your share is helpful in choosing a CSA. Depending upon the farm and the climate, local farmers and their families have been known to include many interesting things in a share. You may find herbs, nuts, fruit, coffee, tea, dairy products, eggs, meat, herbal remedies, crafts, dried fruit, honey, flowers, seeds, handmade soap, syrups and maybe even wool. Local Harvest also offers a store with many farm-produced items that may not be available in your area but can be shipped to you.
4. Frequency of boxes. How often you receive a share will depend upon the CSA you choose. Most farms have websites to answer this and other frequently asked questions. Usually, boxes will be available once a week, but this can vary depending upon the crops, weather and your particular subscription details.
5. Price per share. CSA prices are varied depending on the type of share you buy. A full share of the longest subscription length may cost upwards of $200. Breakdowns of a half share of a season or partial season will cost less. Because each farm is unique, visit Local Harvest online or the farm website for your exact outlay.