What is a CSA, you ask? CSA, in this sense, means Community Supported Agriculture, where you buy shares in a local farm and get fresh, fresh vegetables for a season. You’re guaranteed that they are fresh picked and are often organic in the real sense. You also get to meet the farmers and learn how they operate their farms and even discuss their values. To me, it’s a win-win situation.
Understanding CSA’s: Community Supported Agriculture
Pros vs. Cons
When you endeavour to buy shares in a CSA, you support the local economy and take a stand with a local farmer to keep providing fresh food to local people. What a difference from going to the big-box store and supporting an agri-business that’s importing out-of-season food that has spent weeks being transported to your city and is almost always picked before it’s ripe. Have you not often wondered why produce you purchase at the local supermarket spoils so quickly?
Costs of CSAs vary from farm to farm but an average cost is $300 – $500, depending on whether you choose a ½ or whole share. Most seasons run from 18-22 weeks, depending on whether or not the farmer uses hoop houses. One disadvantage some people find is having to eat what is in season in their area or being offered something they have never tried. I see this as an opportunity to find new things to try and love (or not). Many farmers even offer winter CSAs and if you would like to try your hand at being a true locavore, this is your perfect opportunity. If you would like to learn a little more about this phenomena, I highly recommend the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.
What to Consider
When deciding whether or not a CSA is a good fit for you and your family, you have to weigh more than just the cost of your share. You need to look at the benefits of eating healthier produce with more vitamins and minerals, often minus the pesticides and herbicides used on supermarket produce. These accumulate in your body, often leading to disease, then entailing the costs of doctor bills or more. Also, eating vegetables with more vitamins and minerals will reduce the amount of supplements you would need to fulfill your daily requirements.
Sourcing The Product
Take the opportunity to source out CSAs in your area. The most comprehensive list for the U.S. is found at http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ and http://csafarms.ca/ for Ontario. One farm in my area that usually has a waiting list can be found at http://www.treeandtwig.ca/. Participants are treated to unusual vegetables throughout the season as Linda (the owner) tries different things each year and all items are grown from heirloom seeds, something that was slipping into extinction until recently.
There is no comparison to eating fresh produce that is picked when ripe, rather than what has been shipped hundreds or thousands of miles. I challenge you to try it for yourself; your taste buds will be the judge.
Do you participate in community supported agriculture in your area? I’d love to hear your experience, good or bad.