Here’s wishing you a happy CSA Day! What’s that, you say? You don’t know what a CSA is?
CSA stands for “Consumer Supported Agriculture” and it is a great way for the community and consumers to support their local farms by taking some of the monetary risk out of farming. The easiest way to think about it is like an investment – you give the farmer money before the growing season which they then use to purchase the things they need to grow crops. In return, throughout the growing season you receive a weekly return on your investment in the form of produce, which is, just as in investing, called a share. If the growing season is good, you’ll receive a larger share – a higher return on your investment. If the growing season is not so good, you’ll receive a smaller share.
You can also think of it as the pre-cursor to today’s fad of subscription boxes. We have meal delivery boxes, clothes boxes, grooming boxes, and more (and I subscribe to more than my fair share of them). And even though all of the ingredients for a meal aren’t included like they are with the meal delivery boxes, you could think of a CSA as a hyper-local version of these services. You’ll have to provide other ingredients, but the share of fresh vegetables will be more than plenty to provide vegetation for your meals for the week. Plus, many farmers include recipes and other ingredients (breads, eggs, cheeses, and sometimes even meats) with their shares.
Some farms are now also opting for a hybrid model of CSA called a Market Share CSA. With this model, instead of receiving a share of produce selected by the farmer each week, you pick out the produce you want either at an on-farm stand or at their booth at a local farmers market. You could compare this more to buying a gift card or pre-paid card from the farmer. It gives them the up-front capital in the spring to buy supplies. Many farmers will offer incentives for participating, usually in the form of a discount (for example, a $100 card may only cost $95). It takes some of the surprise away from getting a share of random vegetables, but some farmers find it easier to manage. Plus, it can be a positive for people who may be a little pickier about what vegetables they will eat.
I hope you will consider supporting your local farm by participating in their CSA this year. And may your CSA share be full of many tasty surprises this season!