Community Supported Agriculture

I’ve gotten about couple emails asking me about Community Supported Agriculture, so I thought I’d put the information here.

Here’s a good description of what CSA’s are and how they work: Wiki

Basically, CSA members pay a designated fee (weekly/monthly/yearly/etc.) to a local farm in exchange for a selection of that farm's crops. It benefits the farm because they lower their risk by using membership numbers to determine how much and when to plant/harvest/etc. In return, members receive fresh, organic, sustainably grown produce, often picked a day before. It's a great relationship that keeps small, independent farms alive and healthy, seasonal produce on my table. Most CSA’s will have members who host a pick-up location for their neighborhood, and some will even deliver to your door for an extra fee.

One of the downsides is that you don't usually get a say in what your box will contain. When searching for a farm, they will often provide a list of the crops they grow and a sample list of what a box might contain, which will help you select a good match. I like the challenge of receiving produce I would not otherwise notice at the market, and I'm also learning to enjoy new things. Sometimes I do get items I don't like, but I just give them to friends or coworkers. The box I receive is a little less than enough to feed 2 vegans for a week (we rarely eat out), which I think is a steal for about $20. That way I can also still supplement with items from the store or farmers market when I have a craving for a certain dish or ingredient.

Some people don't like the limitations of having someone else (or the season!) determine their refrigerator contents for them, and that was something I worried about at first, but I really love how much time it saves me. I no longer spend forever wandering aimlessly through markets trying to decide what is going to sound good 5 days from now. And in the end, I know it's healthier to mainly eat local, seasonal produce, for me and the environment. Plus it’s going to taste better than the out-of -season tomato from Chile or orange from South Africa, picked completely green and shipped thousands of miles. If you're someone who loves farmer's market visits or menu planning, it might not be the best option for you, though some farms offer box size or biweekly options.

My farm is Terra Firma Farm in Winters, California. I chose them for several reasons: cost, crop variety, pick-up locations, and that they only grow produce and nuts. Many farms also sell meat, wool, eggs, etc. and I was happy to find a farm that did not. I also liked the idea that I could actually point to Winters on a map, having lived nearby for 4 years while in college. These past two weeks have been their annual vacation time and I can't wait until deliveries begin again next week.

The Wiki entry above can lead you in the direction of a few sites that can help you locate a CSA farm in your area.


Eve Love said...

CSA is amazing.
I'm in Quebec, and there's a lot of choice in my area. I choose a really small one that I know my contribution is making a difference. Vegetables are fresh, and surprising. Love to cook vegetable i'm not use to.
Really, one of the greatest way to eat and live.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I recently joined Terra Firma Farm's CSA. I am interested in connecting with other subscribers to share menu ideas. Although I am not vegan, when I cook at home, it's mostly vegan dishes.

I love the CSA boxes so far!