Buying local is environmentally friendly, and there’s nothing better than just-picked produce. You can give your family fresh, local produce by buying shares in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program in your area. Each week, you receive a box of fruit and vegetables delivered directly from the farm to you. It’s a great way to support local farmers and keep your family eating well.
But choosing a CSA isn’t always easy; if your area has multiple local farms offering community shares, how do you know which one is best for your family? Here are some things to consider before investing in a CSA.
Variety of Products Available
CSAs typically provide fresh produce, which may include both vegetables and fruit. Others provide additional buy-ins for meat, eggs, flowers, and honey. Talk to the CSA farmers in your area to learn about the special products they offer, then decide which is the best fit for your family. Are there any vegans in the house? You won’t want meat, eggs or honey—and you may wish to avoid a farm whose main point of sale comes from these animals.
Most CSAs are in service throughout the summer, but others also offer late fall, winter, and spring shares as well. Remember that the produce you receive is seasonal. Depending on your area, you may have some produce that’s only available a few weeks in the summer, while other vegetables are in season in the spring and the fall. For example, below are some of the Northeast’s main seasonal offerings:
- Spring: Asparagus, assorted greens, blueberries, carrots, kale, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, and summer squash.
- Summer: Assorted greens, beans, beets, blueberries, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, peaches, peppers, potatoes, radishes, scallions, sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and summer squash.
- Fall: apples, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, leeks, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, and winter squash.
Pickup or Drop-off Arrangements
CSAs offer a variety of arrangements for pickup or drop-off. Some will deliver to your home, workplace, or a specified point from which you can pick it up at your leisure. Settle on a convenient arrangement that works for you and the farmer.
These days, many CSA farms offer smaller portions, also known as half-shares or mini-shares, for smaller families. Ask the farmer about this option too, especially if your family doesn’t have such a large need for produce.
Most CSAs require advance payment, but some offer payment plans so you can settle up over the length of the season instead of in one lump sum. If the idea of an upfront payment doesn’t work for your family, ask the farmer about other arrangements.
Many CSAs also offer special events to the community, such as hosted dinners, pick-your-own days, workshops, and other exciting activities. Some even require their members to work a set number of hours on the farm each growing season. Ask other members of the CSA farm for input on community involvement. Remember, you’re buying into a partnership with a farm; it isn’t just about the veggies.
Community supported agriculture ensures your family will eat the freshest food possible. Just make sure to take the time to evaluate your options before you strike up what’s sure to be a long-lasting partnership.
What do you love about your own local farm? Let us know in the comments below.
Image source: Flickr