What is a CSA?
Community-Supported or Community-Shared Agriculture (CSA) is a method of supporting your local farmer by paying upfront in exchange for a share of that farmer's crops in one season which means that, as a member, you are taking on the shared risk of farming.
While new in name, Community Supported Agriculture hearkens back to an earlier time when people knew had a relationship with their farmers, ate in harmony with the seasons, and enjoyed a diet of fresh whole foods.
"In season" but more importantly "local" is what CSAs are all about. Your average grocery store sources its food from across the globe, it knows no seasons and is disconnected from Nature. Sure, you can buy tomatoes in January, but here's the scoop on that tomato:
It was probably picked while still green 2000 miles away, then blasted with ethylene gas to make it turn red just before arriving in the produce section of your store. Not good for the Earth and not good for you.
What we have gained in convenience, we have lost in flavor, freshness, nutritional value, and in our human connection-to each other and the land. When you subscribe to a CSA, however, you reconnect to those very principles again.
Of course, you'll never get tomatoes in May. Instead your vegetable CSA share will be full of luscious lettuce, spinach, radishes and other spring delights. When August comes, then you will experience an explosion of true tomato flavor with your first bite of a juicy, just-picked, sun-ripened tomato- proving once again that some things are worth waiting for!
Advantages for farmers:
Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before 16 hour days in the field begin
Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
CSA subscribers don't so much "buy" food from particular farms as become "members" of those farms. CSAs provide more than just food, they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm.