What is CSA?

My summer share CSA starts next week! I am really excited.  I’m planning on posting pictures of my box and what I do with it each week.  But before we get to that, I figured I’d make sure everyone knows what a CSA is.  Here are some questions you might have.

  • What is a CSA? A CSA, or community supported agriculture, share is basically a share of a farm.  You pay up front and get a portion of the farm’s produce every week, month, or other designated scheduled time.  You are taking on part of the farmer’s risk–if it’s a great year, you’ll get tons of food.  If it’s a terrible year, you won’t get as much.  It’s a great way to support a local farm.  Most CSAs are for produce, but you can also find CSAs for meat, dairy products, eggs, canned goods, flowers, coffee, and many other things.
  • How did you find your farm? I’m lucky to live in an area with a ton of CSAs.  Madison has a CSA Coalition that has an open house and compiles a list of CSAs.  If you don’t live in Madison, you can find CSAs on Local Harvest.  I chose to go with Primrose Community Farm because the price was good, the boxes seemed plentiful, and they were convenient for me.
  • How much does it cost? My CSA is $575 for 20 weeks of vegetables that should be enough for 3-5 people.  My health insurance has already given me a $100 rebate as part of its wellness program.  That brings it down to $23.75 a week.  A lot of farms also give you the chance to work for your share–mine you work 4 hours a week and get a full share.
  • What do you get? My CSA lists some sample boxes out, but it depends on the year.  Here’s a mid-August box: “6 ears sweet corn, 1 pound carrots; 1 head celery; 3 zucchini; 1 watermelon; 1 pint sungold tomatoes; 1 pint cherry tomatoes; 2 cippollini onions; 3 cucumbers; 2 zucchinis; 1 jalapeno; 1 green pepper; 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes; 1.5 pounds green beans.”  The boxes obviously vary with the season, so in the spring my farm will have baby lettuce and strawberries and in the fall there will be winter squash and potatoes.
  • Isn’t that a ton of food? Lots of CSAs, including mine, offer an every other share or a half share for smaller families.  You can also split your share with another family if you don’t think yours can eat it all.  I’m pretty proficient at canning and freezing, so my goal is to save lots of it for winter.  That’s why I decided to go with a full share even though I live alone.
  • How do you physically get your food? My CSA has multiple pick-up locations on Wednesdays, some at churches, some at homes, and one in the cafeteria where I work, which is one of the main reasons I chose it.  Some farms require you to go to the farm to pick it up and others will have pick-up at the farmers’ market.  This is something to really consider when you are choosing a CSA–it needs to work for you.
  • Can anyone do it? Yes! It’s not just for hippies! I think CSA is a great way to get food from farmers near you and push you to be creative with the vegetables you eat. Better food and better skills–what more could you ask for?

Do you have any CSA-related questions that I didn’t answer? Let me know!

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