What is a CSA?
Each year, farmers in your area typically offer a certain number of crop shares to the public, and local nutrition nuts, like you and me, can sign up to purchase a share of local farm fresh produce and other local products. We pay in advance, and in turn, each week the farmers provide us with a box of fresh vegetables. Some farms also offer fresh herbs, flowers, fruits, meats, cheeses, breads and even homemade food items like jams or pies.
Why would you want to sign up for one?
CSAs are a win-win! The farmer benefits because you pay for your share prior to the season, which allows them to get a head start at funding the entire process.
You benefit in so may ways:
- More Nurients, More Flavor. Getting your food directly from the farmer means that you are getting fresher produce that is picked at it’s peak ripeness, which is a huge win for you and your family. Much of the produce that we buy at the grocery store travels hundreds or even thousands of miles before it reaches us, so it’s picked before it’s fully ripened so that it’s not rotten by the time it hits the supermarket shelves. Unfortunately, picking food before it’s ripe means that it doesn’t have the same level of nutrition that naturally ripened foods do, when picked prematurely.
- Save Money! Participating in a CSA isn’t just great for you, it’s also great for your local economy. You are eating farm fresh, nutrient dense and great tasting produce as well as supporting your local economy by keeping your money in your home state. Let’s not forget that buying direct from the farmer cuts out the middlemen. Since there’s less overhead involved for the farmers, you end up getting more bang for your buck. Last summer, our trips to the grocery store were limited, almost exclusively, to items that couldn’t be found in the produce section.
- Get Creative and Explore New Flavors. Since your weekly shares consist of foods that are ready for harvest, you’ll find yourself with veggies and fruits that you might be unfamiliar with. This keeps things interesting in the kitchen! Last season we saw korabi, garlic scapes and more varieties of squash than I’ve ever seen at the grocery store. They are all new favorites for us and taste fabulous!
If you’re household is slightly less daring when it comes to trying new foods, don’t fret. Many farms are flexible when it comes to trading foods you may not like for others that you do. So don’t be afraid to ask if you can swap something out. Last year, my husband and I purchased a CSA share from Paul Mazza’s and they were wonderful about swapping!
Are there any risks involved?
There is always a shared risk involved due to what mother nature brings our way. Some crops can certainly be lost due to flooding, frosts, hail etc. I’m sure that some CSA’s were affected by the floods that Irene presented a few years back. Paul Mazza’s wasn’t really effected by that storm at all but as we all know some towns were hit harder then others with that storm. So, these things happen but there is still plenty of food in most cases and the farmers feel very devoted to their members and do all they can to make sure they pull through in the best way that they can. More times then not there is too much food and you’re more likely to save money.
If the risk of purchasing a share isn’t for you then you should still shop at your local farmers market or even grow your own! It makes all of the difference when you eat fresh! Everything just takes WAY better!
Find your local CSA farm shares at these 3 great resources: