Good People, Good Food: Local Agriculture through CSAs

Do you enjoy eating fresh vegetables from a garden? Do you live in an area where you don’t have room for a garden of your own? Well, in many areas that’s no longer a problem. People from around the country are taking part in a recently trending movement, supporting local farms through agriculture programs called Community Supported Agriculture (also known as CSAs).

Supporting Local Agriculture

CSAs are a great way for members of a community to purchase fresh local agriculture and seasonal food straight from the farmer. There’s no need to go to grocery stores and purchase imported produce when you can get it fresh and locally.

How do CSAs work? Typically, farms offer memberships to the public. Keep in mind these offers are limited, so it’s best to sign up prior to the growing season so that you’re guaranteed to get a share in the farm. These shares will get you a box full of vegetables and other products that the farm might produce. Typically, when you sign up for a CSA you get a box or basket full of fresh seasonal produce each week during the growing season.

Do it for the children: local agriculture offers benefits handed down through generations.

Do it for the children: local agriculture offers benefits to be handed down through generations. Image via Atlanaka.

Advantages to Farms Offering CSA

By providing shares in their farms, farmers are able to spend time marketing their produce earlier in the year, prior to the beginning of the growing seasons when their time is spent in the fields. Also, it’s customary to receive payment early in the season for those wishing for membership in the CSA, which helps with the farm’s cash flow.

Finally, the farmers get to know their neighbors. By offering CSA partnerships they get to meet people from their community that they might not get to meet otherwise. It allows the consumers to interact with agricultural systems that they might not otherwise get to see in operation.

Advantages to Consumers

The number one advantage for consumers is that with membership in a CSA, consumers have access to fresh food that holds great flavor and nutritional benefits as compared to the already older, processed produce that you buy in the grocery stores. Consumers of CSAs also gain exposure to produce that they might not eat otherwise, which opens new doors to what they can consume, and how they cook their food.

Also, it’s customary that consumers visit the farm. This allows them to see where their food is being produced, as well as the work that goes into producing it. It provides them with a deeper understanding of the quality of work that goes into growing the food, rather than just purchasing it from the grocery store.

Both farmers and consumers benefit from local market interactions. Image via Monkey Business Images.

Both farmers and consumers benefit from local market interactions. Image via Monkey Business Images.

CSAs are Unique

CSAs are a simple yet unique way of providing fresh food to the community. Not only are they a way to provide fresh produce, but they create a bond between people and the land on which their food is grown. It also provides a way for people to have a deeper understanding about growing seasons and environmental effects that can harm such seasons, such as droughts.

Much like in a business partnership, it’s a common practice that you share in the success or failure of the farm you’re supporting. If the farm is hit with drought or disease then it’s not only the farmer’s disaster, but also your own. But if the harvest is bountiful, then as a consumer, you also share in that success.

Are you interested in signing up for a CSA? Local Harvest provides a database where you can sign up to take part in CSAs. Remember, spots often go fast and the growing season is right around the corner, so sign up now!

Featured Image: a heap of local produce, courtesy of community supported agriculture membership. Image via PHG.

About The Author

My name I Heather Sowalla. I have a passion for the environment starting from the time I was a young girl. I fell in love with hiking and fishing, even playing with bugs! As I grew older my passions began to develop into something that I could mold my education around. Starting with my undergrad degree I focused on fish and wildlife management which took me from central Pennsylvania the entire way to Alaska for an internship with the Student Conservation Association. After that I decided, due to health reasons, that I needed a change of pace and so I moved in a direction of sustainability, in particular agriculture and food security and now as I work through my internship - I plan on graduating in the Spring of 2015 with my Masters. What will I do after that? Well ... I'm not really sure. Maybe I will be the next great of the Environmental Era? Maybe not ... but I will do my best to try!