As urban dwellers and self-avowed black thumbs (me, not Shawn), my husband and I have pondered how we could enjoy the fruits of locally grown food while directly supporting a small family owned farm in the area. Of course we visit the Farmer's market as often as we can, but we wanted a closer relationship with our farmers. Enter...Community Supported Agriculture or CSA program.
What is Community Supported Agriculture, you ask? Local Harvest, the best website and source for connecting with CSAs and other local eating in your area (in our opinion), says it excellently with the following description:
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
We are in the second season of CSA membership and we have owned our small part of two different farms. Being members of these CSAs has helped us to have a true stake each of the farms. The farms, in some small way, have become ours. In fact if anyone ever heard us talking about the farm, our farm, they might even think that we own a farm somewhere. Now we know that our hands have not tilled the dirt or pulled the weeks, but we have made a difference in the running of the farm by supporting it. And knowing that has been quite transformative. We pay attention to the weather, ponder how the seedlings that will nourish us are doing, and are generally more attentive to the how of farming than we ever were before.
Last season our farm, Bull Run Mountain Vegetable Farm, helped us to fall in love with the ease and convenience of the CSA process. The delivery system of this farm is to a centralized location where members come and pick up each week. And while we loved the farm and Farmer Leigh, we found that system of delivery did not work for our one-car lifestyle. So, we opted to switch to a new farm this season. That is one of the great things about a CSA, you can try it for one growing season, and then make changes as needed.
Our new farm is Great Country Farms and they deliver right to our front door and offer U-pick specials at the farm! This farm is a bit larger operation, but we LOVE to have our local produce waiting for us 'on the doorstep' each Tuesday. We also connected with friends to split a share this season. This has been both economical and rather fun. We share recipes and love to chat about the new foods that have come our way.
Here is how our delicious produce comes to us these days
We also have visited each of the farms to meet our farmers and get a look at the local operation that we are supporting. In May we went berry picking and I came back with a bounty of berries and a deep respect for the work and efforts that growing and harvesting food entails. I will never look at another piece of produce and not appreciate the true efforts (and in many cases sheer toil) that got it to my plate. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from our farm visits:
Hints for participating in a CSA-
- Most CSAs share 'buying in' time is in February and March - you have to plan ahead - many CSAs sell out of their shares long before their harvests are even planted
- Look at how and when deliveries of produce are made to make sure you get the best fit for your family
- Ask how large a share is, most CSAs will sell half-shares or let you share with another party
- Use Local Harvest to research the farms you will be connecting with
- Be sure to take the time to visit your farm...because it is yours...at least a tiny bit!
- CSA shares come in all shapes and prices, with a little looking you can find one that fits your lifestyle and your pocket book.
You don't have to take my word for it, check out Local Harvest, and give a local CSA a try! I can guarantee that you won't be sorry.
Thank you so much. Sara! If I didn't have a fabulous market 6 blocks from my house this would certainly be the way to go. I can only imagine the fun my kids would have on the farm, though! I might have to check it out for next year just based on that!
Now it's your turn! Tell us what you've been up to. Remember if you don't have a blog you can share in the comments! I'd love to hear how it's going for everyone. Even if it's not going well...
1. Please link to a specific post. No homepages. We want to be able to find this post next year if we so desire.
2. Please link to the Go Local Challenge somewhere within your post or on your page. Feel free to use the button in your sidebar.
3. Please title your link. (ex. Heather-short ribs) This will help us remember what we're looking for.