What is community supported agriculture? There is a food revolution sweeping our country. It involves access to higher quality, fresher produce at lower prices. Are you missing out on the chance to join an exclusive club in your community? It’s a way to eat better and help your local farmers too.
It’s time to join a CSA.
Why CSAs Matter
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a great way to participate in local food systems.
Many small and medium-sized farms offer a CSA program directly to consumers. This service has become invaluable to many families during this time of quarantine.
First, you register in advance of the growing season so the farmers know how much of each crop to cultivate.
Then, when harvest season comes around, you can pick up your CSA delivery and enjoy your local vegetables.
Another way to think of it is like the stock market. Purchasing a CSA is like buying a small “share” in a local farm. It means you are a member of sorts, and you are now entitled to some of the goods that it produces.
YouTuber Kara Lydon created an entire series exploring the produce she received in her weekly CSA box. Each episode focused on the health benefits of each offering and how she used them to cook in her kitchen.
How To Find a CSA Near You
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a huge and searchable CSA Directory that lists local farms, networks, and associations of multiple farms that supply regular (generally weekly) deliveries of locally-grown farm products.
Subscription offerings vary by season and location, of course, but you can search your area and find a CSA quickly.
You can filter results by zip code, narrowing and expanding the distance until you find an acceptable travel range.
No matter what your budget or situation, this directory allows you to search by different payment methods, including cash, checks, credit card, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
If you want to find something simpler than a regular subscription to a local farmer’s produce, visit this Local Food Directories page to find ways to support local farmers while buying a particular food you love.
Joining a CSA means that you have the opportunity to build a relationship with a local farmer. You can probably even visit the farm to see where your food is being grown. One thing to know is that you can’t always predict what items will be in your CSA box.
Sometimes, it’s more food than you can eat in a single week. This is a great opportunity to learn some simple food preservation techniques.
You can start with this special “Just Picked” video, showing how to preserve your CSA harvest all winter long.
Reconnect with Your Food
These transformational times provide an opportunity to connect with local food sources, understand where our food comes from and discover the best practices for raising our food. There has never been a better time to reconnect with your local farmers and support local agriculture.
The author Barbara Kingsolver explained why in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
“For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.”Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver’s book has inspired a generation of young farmers to reconnect with their roots and create a closer bond with their communities.
One of the community farms inspired by Kingsolver’s book was the Roots and Refuge Farm in Arkansas. On the farm’s YouTube channel, the family discussed how that book taught them the importance of locally sourced food and growing things yourself.
In a video, she explains how receiving food straight from the Earth changes your perspective.
“If you get something prepared in a package all of those ingredients had to go through the process of being prepared and packaged. That’s more packaging and more gas miles, and then that is sent to a store where you go purchase it. So we really cut back on our footprint majorly when we make things at home.”Barbara Kingsolver
Modern Farmer journalist Gloria Dawson reminds us that the idea is nothing new. CSAs have operated around the country for many years. She writes:
“Ask a locavore what’s the best way to get their food direct from a farmer, and chances are they’ll offer up the idea of CSAs. The boxes filled with farm-fresh food, either picked up or delivered straight to your door, have become increasingly popular across the US in the past ten years, but the model itself is decades old.”Gloria Dawson
In fact, the Food Network created a documentary nearly 15 years ago, showing the world how community support agriculture worked — one of the most influential videos created before our current boom in CSAs. Hopefully after reading this you can answer the question: “what is community supported agriculture?”