Community Supported Agriculture

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she mentioned something I had heard a lot about, but never really looked into.

She told me that she was joining a CSA for the second year in a row. After talking to her a bit I found out that CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is gaining popularity every year all over the United States. What is it you wonder?

It’s like buying your own share of a farm, but you don’t have to do all the planting, watering and harvesting. You pay the farm up front and in return you get a weekly share of the crop.

After listening to her talk about how great it was, I decided to look into it. I have found that while it’s a great way to support your local farmers and eat the freshest produce imaginable, there are some downsides as well. If you’ve thought about doing it, or just want to know more, check out this list of pros and cons about Community Supported Agriculture.

Pros:

It’s no secret that fresh is better when it comes to produce. Not only does it taste a lot better, but the closer you eat fruits and vegetables to when they are harvested, the more nutrients you’re getting.

If you love freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, but can’t have or don’t want to bother with a garden, this is the best of both worlds.

While they are all different, usually you’ll get a weekly crop. Depending on where you live, you might have to pick up your share at your local farmer’s market, but some will deliver directly to your house.

It’s great for the environment, since your food is not traveling thousands of miles to get to you.

You’re supporting the community and helping local farmer’s who can’t compete with larger grocery chains stay in business.

If you eat a lot of fresh produce, you’ll pay significantly less than you would at the grocery store.

Most of what you’ll get is organic, even if it’s not officially certified. My friend told me the farm where her stuff comes from is not certified because of the cost involved, but they don’t use pesticides on their products, so technically everything she gets is organic.

Cons:

You don’t have any say in what you get for the most part. If the farm has a large lettuce crop this week, you’re getting a lot of lettuce. So if you’re picky and only like a few certain vegetables, this might not be for you.

You’ll get more than you think. This is good, because most stuff can be easily frozen or canned, but it can be overwhelming to have 3 heads of cabbage and no idea what to do with it.

You’ll have to clean it and prep it. You’re not getting shiny, wax coated cucumbers and triple washed lettuces. It can be a lot of work and if you don’t develop a system for dealing with it right away, it can pile up which leads to waste.

You have to pay for it up front, and while the savings are significant, it can be hard for a lot of families to come with essentially a few months of their grocery budget all at once.

Since they are rapidly gaining in popularity, there are some unscrupulous companies out there trying to take advantage of people by buying produce from the grocery store and reselling it. Use common sense; if you live in Kansas and bananas are included in the share, it’s obviously not local. Most farms allow visits and even encourage them; if the one you choose does not, look into a different one.

CSA’s aren’t just for produce either. While most offer fresh fruit and veggies, you can find some that sell meat, dairy, even homemade breads (usually as part of a larger share).

For more information and to find a CSA near you, check out LocalHarvest.org.

Have you or anyone you know been part of a CSA? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by photofarmer

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