Everything You Need to Know about CSA Programs

Everything You Need to Know about CSA Programs

CSA Program 101

Ok, so I’ve been posting about our weekly bounty in our CSA boxes…but I realized I may not have done a great job explaining what this program is.  So, here we go.

What is a CSA Box?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a great way to get fresh, local produce directly from a farmer.  Here’s how a CSA box works:

-You buy into the program with a participating farm. It’s sort of like buying “stock” into the farm. My “shares” of the farm include a weekly box of produce…but other farms may offer other products like meat, cheese, eggs, flowers, baked goods, or other services as part of their CSA program.  The “share” is a subscription.  My subscription was for 10 weekly boxes (which actually got spread out a bit due to the harvest).

How does a community supported agriculture program work?

CSA programs work because they allow the farmer to have buyers for their food before the harvest, get cash flow before the season, and get to know the people who eat their food.  For me, it means I get a great variety of fresh food, get to visit the farm to pick up my food, get to try new things.  It’s awesome. Farms may also sell their produce to the general (non-CSA member) public – mine does! – but having people support the farm through a CSA program allows the farmer to know that a percentage of their crop is sold.  For example, my farm doesn’t produce a ton of raspberries, but they have some.  The CSA program got the first harvest of raspberries, and then the rest were sold in their farm store.  So that allowed the farmer to know that most of the raspberries were already sold, so they didn’t have to worry about promoting the fact that they had a raspberry harvest during a particular week in order to sell a bunch of raspberries.

When you sign up for a CSA program, you will get your pickup directions.  At my CSA, I get an email on a Sunday telling us that there is or isn’t a CSA box for that week.  Usually the email says what will be in the box.  At our CSA, we had to designate a pick up day…mine is Monday.  So on Mondays, I stop by the farm on my way home and get my box.  If there is produce that needs to be refrigerated, the box is in their big fridge, if not, it’s sitting in their farm store.  The boxes are labeled with our names (because some weeks we are able to request specific herbs be included in our boxes), and I have two boxes that I rotate through.  Each week I bring back my empty box and take home a full one.

So how do you find a farm that participates in a CSA box program?

Well, I found mine because we were at the farm picking pumpkins…and I saw a sign about their CSA program and asked about it.  But you might be able to google “CSA ___” and fill in your town to find one.  I have also heard that Local Harvest has a listing of farms for you to search through.

How much does a CSA program cost?

My program was $22/week for 10 weeks for a total of $220.  I had to pay upfront.  If I return next year, I will get a $2/week discount, making it $20/week.  I have gotten enough produce to make the $20/week totally worth it…however since we are a family of two…sometimes in order to go through all of the produce before it goes bad/we get another box, I’ve had to process (freeze, bake, use up) the produce or give some of it away.  But, it’s definitely been worth the cost.

I’ve gotten to try veggies I never would have purchased, like Savoy cabbage and beets.  We have been forced to eat lots of healthy fruits and veggies because we have gotten them weekly.  It’s awesome.  If you have a CSA box program in your area, I highly recommend the experience.  You can support a local farm, get healthy food, and try new things!

 


Comments

  1. Awesome! I need to look into this for NWA! Thanks for the good info!

  2. In Dallas I do something similar through Greenling Box. I love it! And like you, I’ve tried foods I didn’t even know about.

  3. I think I’ll try it next year! Maybe split with my parents since there are only 2 of us also. How late in the day can you pick up your box?

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