What truly is a CSA? What is it about the CSA that I find so attractive? After CSA farming for a few years, I have completely fallen in love with the concept. Community Supported Agriculture. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? Farming for the community. Farming for a community. A cultivated, caring, dedicated community who works with and knows the person raising their food. CSA programs are intentionally built systems to directly offer produce from the farmer to the consumer in a reciprocal manner.
The CSA model begins when a consumer invests financially in a local farm. Most CSA farmers offer CSA shares at a few different price points and in a few different sizes. This investment usually takes place in the off-season, when summer produce fills our dreams and the farmer is deeply planning for the upcoming growing season. This is the moment when farmers need financial support the most. They are usually investing in seeds and infrastructure to increase their productivity, efficiency, and reciprocity on their farm. This investment secures the CSA member a share of all the food the farmer will raise during their growing season.
CSA farmers love their CSA members. That investment not only helps them financially, but it tells the farmer “I believe in what you’re doing, I support you, and I want a share of your food.” That is so powerful. I love the dedication CSA members have towards their farmers. We have too easily lost touch from knowing our farmers and believing in the work they’re doing. I feel like the CSA program really roots us back to the relationship consumers and producers were meant to have.
With this financial security and support, the farmer can refine their systems, expand, grow, and plan for the upcoming season to ensure the consumer gets back what they put in. The farmer wants to produce food. They have a passion for food and their goal is to nourish the world. The CSA model allows space for that to ensue.
Once the CSA season begins there is this beautiful exchange of goods. Seasonal bounty from the earth is harvested, packed, and delivered. Face-to-face contact is made. Conversations about different, unique veggies arise. CSA members and farmers connect over the recipes they use for success, or their best preservation tips for certain veggies. Stories are shared from the week. Veggies are packed into car trunks and backpacks and everyone heads home to wash, store, and cook with that week’s produce. The farmer heads home with an empty truck and a full heart.
No two weeks are the same. No two CSA programs are the same. Each farmer has a different system for sharing bounty with their members. Some farms allow the members to choose their veggies each week while others pre-pack the most beautiful, lush produce ready on the farm. No matter the difference, there is one thing that remains the same. All CSA programs highlight seasonal produce.
I am so passionate about eating seasonally. When we focus on the veggies that can be grown and stored in our climate during each season, we are returning to the natural cycle of the earth. Local, seasonal food reduces the distance our food travels from soil to plate. CSA programs allow us to connect with the food that can be raised in our homeplace geography. Yes, some weeks we may be inundated with broccoli, or we may find ourselves holding a vegetable we’ve never eaten before. But that’s the beauty of it. We learn how to cook with the foods available to us, raised locally and by farmers we trust.
The CSA model is one I believe we should gravitate towards. Imagine a world where every spring and fall we had to think about where our veggies were coming from before the season begins. A world where we relied less on the convenience of the produce under florescent lights in the grocery store and thought more about what the sun and soil in our climate can provide for us. CSA programs are designed to remove the middle man and completely and utterly connect the producer to the consumer. They are powerful. I cannot wait to embark on our own CSA program. If you made it this far, and feel intrigued… Join our CSA! We’d love to have you and connect with you over food.
Much love, soil, and sunshine.