A Shared Adventure- CSA

17 Jan

by Green Gourmet L

Photo from Gertens website

Photo from Gertens website

Many people are starting to really think about and analyze where their food is coming from. Do you want to buy an apple that was flown/shipped/driven from across the world? Or would you like to buy an apple that came  from an apple tree, picked that morning, 10 miles down the road? Would you spend a few cents more to get the local apple?

As a farmer’s market regular, I felt as though I was doing my part to support local farmers by heading out to buy my produce from the tents every week. But, did you know that you can also support your local farmer by enrolling in a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)? Want to know more?

A Bit of History

Photo from Saffire Farms website

Photo from Saffire Farms website

CSAs have been around in Europe and Japan since the 1960s, but made their way to the US in the early 80s. The first two CSA projects in the US were in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1986. Today there are over 2,500 projects all over the country listed on the Localharvest database. The original idea of CSA was to re-establish a sense of connection to the land and to foster a strong sense of community and cooperation. Twenty years ago, a CSA consisted of a group of people that  pooled their money together, bought land, hired a farmer, and split whatever crops were harvested. Nowadays, CSAs are usually privately owned by family farmers. But this concept remains: “We’re in this together.”

How Does it Work

Basically, a farm offers a certain number of “shares” to the community. You fill out an application and send in your money ahead of time to secure your share. The advantage to the farmer is that he/she has the money upfront to plan for the upcoming growing season. The advantage to the consumer is that you know where your food is coming from every week. When the season begins, the farmer provides you with a box of whatever has been harvested that week. Typically this includes fruits and vegetables, but some CSAs also offer herbs, flowers, eggs, milk/cheese, even free range meat and poultry.

We’re in this Together

Photo from csacenter.org

Photo from csacenter.org

One of the best parts about joining a CSA is the sense of family or community. Usually, you are able to visit the farm and meet the farmers during a growing season. CSA leftovers that are not picked up on time are frequently donated to a food bank. Often, there is a share box where people can take/leave extra vegetables for the other CSA members. Above all, there is common feeling that everyone wants the farmer to have a successful season. When the harvest goes well, the box is overflowing and people share recipes for their favorite new way to use a veggie. If there is a drought, then everyone suffers together. This is community at it’s best.

What’s the Best Share for Me

Photo from The Daily Green website

Photo from The Daily Green website

When Mr. Green Gourmet and I tried a CSA for the first time, we signed up for the 2 person share. This turned out to be way more than we needed and we ended up giving a large amount away to friends. One of the drawbacks of doing a CSA is that you may be getting similar produce from week to week. Although it may be something you’ve never tried before (like green peanuts) there is only so much you can do with 4 weeks worth (of green peanuts). On the other hand, this is seasonal eating, so it comes with the territory.

When we signed up for the next season, we split the 2 person share with Green Gourmet K and her Husband. This ended up being the perfect amount of veggies for all of us involved. Another idea would be to try the single share (for 1 person) and then supplement with weekly trips to the farmer’s market. Some CSAs even let you pick and choose which vegetables you would like as a part of your share. But we encourage you to try new things (don’t forget about our New Years Resolutions)!

How Do I Find a CSA

There is a growing (haha) interest in CSAs and you can almost always find one near you. The Local Harvest website is a great place to start. Two of the Green Gourmets’ favorite CSAs in South Carolina are Pinckney’s Produce and City Roots. They are both accepting applications now with limited space, so make sure to sign up soon!

Have fun investing in a CSA and don’t forget to tell them you read it on Green Gourmets!

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2 Responses to “A Shared Adventure- CSA”

  1. Tammy McLeod January 18, 2011 at 7:53 AM #

    This is a great post on CSAs. I love the way you broke it up with subheaders and photos. Thanks for doing this. It’s an important concept that needs more exposure.

  2. Cat January 19, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

    What a great post on CSA’s! I am a big fan of Pinkney’s produce, my parent’s and brother and his family split a family share. I love it when they give me extras from their basket!

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