Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture

I am really excited about joining a CSA this year. I considered joining last year, but did not make time to evaluate the different farm options and sign up. I am a member of Valley Natural Foods and they are having a CSA Day on March 28th where I plan on making my final decision.

For those of you who have not heard of CSA’s, here is a little background information. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Numerous farms offer subscriptions, or shares, of produce that can be purchased for the length of the growing season. Members of the CSA receive weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or one-time containers of veggies, fruit, flowers, eggs, dairy and/or meat. The selection of items varies on the chosen farm and the shares that are purchased.

A typical CSA share includes mostly veggies along with some fruit; additional items such as flowers or meat can be added on at an additional charge. The variety and quantity of vegetables are dependent on the farm, weather conditions, and share chosen.

Members are often referred to as “shareholders” or “subscribers” because with their investment they are taking on the risk associated with each growing season. Some farms even require that members work a few hours on the farm. Most farms offer member only events, potlucks, and demonstrations. Others offer cooking lessons and internships.

Many CSA farms offer local delivery to specific locations along with farm pick up. Customarily farm pick-up is less expensive than local pick-up. Oftentimes pick-up locations are at local co-ops, schools, community centers, and host homes. Some CSA farmers are even open to adding new drop off locations as long as a specific number of shares will be ordered from the location.

Typically, the Minnesota CSA season begins in Mid-May and runs through October (18 - 20 weeks). However, the length and breadth of the season is completely dependent on growing conditions – droughts, floods, pests – all determine crop yield.

The CSA’s that I am considering are sustainable and organic where a half-share of produce ranges from $275 to $470 per season - averaging out to $14.47 to $24.70 per week for fresh, organic produce. The price of each share varies by farm and is dictated by the variety and quantity of produce offered. 

For more information about CSA’s in your area check out the Local Harvest website.

The photos in this post are sample CSA boxes from Featherstone Farm.

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