Saw an article in the New York Times that got my attention this morning – Cutting Out the Middlemen, Shoppers Buy Slices of Farms by Susan Saulny – that inspired me to do a little shout out in support of CSA(Community Supported Agriculture). Of course, the concept isn’t so new to many of us who have been at this sustainable lifestyle thing for a while, but I realize there are a lot of folks just learning about some of this – yeah!
Over 20 years ago (when I was about 12 – not really, but I hate to seem so old!), I lived in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts, which was an enclave of progressive, sustainability folks. I became president of one of the largest most comprehensive store-front food coops in New England, Berkshire Co-Op Market. We were plugged into some great local organic farmers and I was fortunate to be part of one of the early CSA groups.
It felt great to support our local organic farmers, who at that time, were struggling – there were no supermarket chains buying organic produce back then!
Find out more about CSAs and how you can find one near you!
Here’s how they generally work – an individual or family buys a ‘share’ of upcoming harvests of a farm or farmer’s collective. This is great for farmers who can plan and not be subject to unknown markets. Usually, shares are delivered weekly to one or a few central locations for division and/or pickup. You get what is harvested that week, so it also helps to promote seasonal AND regional eating, which definitely has its benefits.
One potential drawback can be that you could get a batch of a vegetable you don’t like or are unfamiliar with one week. Most of the more current CSAs have better diversity than ours did years ago, but you do get what you get and have to plan around the veggies/fruits of the week. It hinders planning, but fosters creativity in our household. We don’t like to waste food, so in order to save it from the compost, we learned some new recipes!
Here are some resources to help you either learn more about CSAs and/or to find one you can get involved with:
Wikipedia definition of Community Supported Agriculture
USDA – CSA information page (yes, that’s right, the USDA)
How to find a CSA:
Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association
It may be late for the summer season, but it’s a good time to research for the fall or winter season, which some CSAs do and others do not. A lot depends on where you live, what the growing season is like, what the farmers are growing – some of them do other products and may provide meats or dairy products as well.
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Watch the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John for an inspiring CSA movie!