A Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
One of the best ways to take advantage of the abundance of seasonal produce supporting local farmers and You know exactly where your food comes from, whether it’s a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA as they’re commonly known.
The opposite local farmers and community farming is large-scale agriculture that often destroys small farmers trying to make a living. Large-scale agriculture often comes with lower quality, higher emissions from transporting food over long distances (resulting in reduced freshness), higher levels of pesticide use, and putting money into the pockets of corporations instead of family farms.
As consumers, we vote with our dollars and have choices about who and what to support. So, if you support your local farmers and know where your food comes from, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great and effective option!
If you’ve ever wondered what a CSA is, the benefits, or how to get involved in your city, read on.
Buying products in season has great advantages. Here’s your guide to seasonal produce + 5 benefits of buying fruits and vegetables in season
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
Community-supported agriculture is built around the idea of increasing local consumers’ access to and connection to local food – a win-win for all parties, especially in a society where we are increasingly disconnected from our food and the people behind it.
Community-supported agriculture benefits local farmers, expands your palate, and inspires food creativity.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines community-supported agriculture as “a community of individuals who pledge to support the operation of a farm so that farmland legally or spiritually becomes a community farm, and producers and consumers provide mutual support and share the risks and rewards of food production.” .
In a more practical sense, it looks like individuals buying a “share” of a farm or group of local farmers, often as a lump sum or monthly payment, and in return receive a regular share of the crop each week during the growing season.
There is no official data on the total number of community-supported agriculture programs in the country, but it is in the thousands and growing as more people become interested in connecting with the local food scene.
As popularity grows, so does the number of options. Many programs offer options such as half-shares for smaller households, mix-and-match packages, or a catalog that includes everything from eggs to cheese, baked goods, dry goods, flowers, and more.
What are the benefits of community-supported agriculture?
For most of us, stocking up on groceries feels like a run to the neighborhood supermarket or an Instacart delivery, and to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (in fact, here are some great delivery services).
There are so many issues with access to food in terms of inequality, affordability and societal messages about food, so everyone should eat as they can and as suits them.
That being said, if you can participate in community-supported agriculture, the benefits are multifaceted, both for you and for the farmers and food producers on the other side.
By participating in community-supported agriculture (more on that below), you’ll receive a vibrant selection of goodies every week that will expand your palate, introduce you to a diverse range of produce at its peak, and help you get more creative in the kitchen.
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Smallholder farmers often find it difficult to stay afloat financially, especially in today’s culture of large-scale agriculture and subsidized crops. So by buying a stake in Community Supported Agriculture, you’re giving vital, up-front support to farmers in your hometown, who can then, in turn, provide their goods at an affordable price direct to the consumer.
There are also significant environmental benefits of community-supported agriculture. Traditional large-scale agriculture tends to practice monoculture farming, relying heavily on fertilizers and pesticides and other commercial farming practices that deplete the soil and the health of the land.
On the other hand, local farmers tend to practice more sustainable, environmentally friendly farming methods that improve the health of their land.
By offering a CSA, farmers tend to grow a greater variety of crops, which in turn benefits the soil and ecosystem.
And because community-supported agriculture offers local picking and sourcing of produce within a small local radius, your food doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to your plate – reducing its carbon footprint, not to mention giving you a much fresher and bigger number of products. – nutrients packed catch.
And last but not least, is there anything better than a fresh tomato? The difference in taste alone is reason enough to join community-supported agriculture.
Your guide to seasonal produce + 5 benefits of buying fruits and vegetables in season
How can you get involved?
Have you heard enough and are ready to make this year the era of community-supported agriculture? It’s getting easier to find a CSA near you and join!
A good starting point would be to simply google “community supported agriculture near me” to find your local options. Many cities will publish publications about local CSA options, or you can always contact your county extension office for tips.
The USDA hosts a local food directory where you can search by location for community-supported agriculture options near you (although you’re best off using local guides or listings, as we’ve found this site isn’t always completely up-to-date.)
Local Harvest hosts another online CSA database that tends to be heavily used by farmers and will likely show you a more comprehensive list of options near you.
Enjoy delicious local food with your Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
If you’re looking for a way to connect to your local economy, build relationships with the growers and producers who produce your food, enrich your diet, and create a more transparent relationship with your food, there’s no more efficient or tastier way to do it than through community-supported agriculture.
Early spring tends to be prime sign-up season, so find your CSA and look forward to the bounty in the coming months!
Looking for the tastiest recipes to use in your CSA? Here are the best healthy food blogs of 2023 (you’ll want to bookmark them)