Getting a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share is a great way to eat locally and support a local farm. But, it's important to know just what a CSA entails, and if it's the right way for you and your family to get seasonal food before you decide to purchase your share. When you join a CSA you are purchasing a share of the season's crops, but you are also taking on a share of the risks involved in the farming; weather, disease and a host of other factors can affect the outcome of a particular season's produce. The appeal to many CSA members is the sense of collaboration they feel with the farmer and other members as well as the box of vegetables (and other goodies) they receive.
Is a CSA is right for you, ask yourself:
If you answered "no" to most of these questions, you and your family might be better suited to getting your produce from another source. Erin Barnett, director of Local Harvest, stresses that CSAs are just one way to get your local and seasonal produce. "If you like what you like and don't like what you don't like, a farmers' market might be a better fit for you," according to Barnett. If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, a CSA might be right for you. Exciting opportunities to cook with foods you or your children have never tired or even heard of await you! According to Laura Sampedro, Foodblogger and recent CSA member, the advantages of cooking and eating with more diverse foods, is that "I'm hyper aware of what's going on in the world around me. If it's raining for a month straight, I now know how that directly affects what I'm going to be eating and why."
If you've decided to purchase a CSA share, you'll need to find out which CSA is best for you. There are over 3,000 CSAs listed in Local Harvest's database (which can be found on The Daily Green's homepage). Consider if you want a full share or half share. Full shares should cost around $20-$45 a week, slightly more a week if your CSA delivers to you. Half shares usually cost $10-$25 per week. Depending on your normal grocery shopping either option could be a great savings to you. If you can plan on getting a majority of your produce through the farm the savings could really add up. Keep in mind though, that you will most likely need to supplement some of your weekly produce depending on you and your family's needs. Many CSA go beyond vegetables, offering fruits, eggs, poultry or even flowers, beer and wine to members, an important option to consider when finding the right farm for you. About 10% of farms require some sort of service work from their members, this could be anything from going to the farm and helping with harvest to simply helping hand out produce boxes.
Is this CSA the one for you, ask the farm:
The final step will be asking for references. Don't be shy, a great farm will proudly give you names of happy customers. Once you decide on your farm sign up as soon as possible, Local Harvest notes on their Website that in some areas the demand for shares is more than what the farms can fulfill. Once you've purchased your share make sure you're signed up for the CSAs newsletter or message board if available; these could be great ways to get to know your fellow members and find recipe ideas, making your membership even more enjoyable.
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