Similar to the models of a co-op, a CSA (or, community supported agriculture) is a commitment between a farmer and a consumer, or more importantly, a community. A community supports a famer by paying for individual shares, allowing the farmer to plan better for his growing season. In return, the farmer supplies community members with their individual shares, or yield, every week.
It’s important to remember CSA shares will vary depending on the farm’s location and current season. For example, a summer CSA share in California will yield more avocados, while a summer CSA share in Jersey will yield more tomatoes. Around Philadelphia, a CSA member will most likely see produce ranging from radishes and spinach in the spring, watermelon and tomatoes in the summer, and kale and sweet potatoes in the fall.
Shared risk is also a major component to CSA shares. As I stated above, community members pay for their shares prior to the growing season. Therefore, if something were to happen during the growing season (such as flood or drought) causing damage or scarcity, members will most likely not be reimbursed. However, because most CSA farmers feel responsible for their community members, farmers will often serve CSA members over another market.
So, why join a CSA and why are they important?
CSAs create a sense of community by supporting a local farm and farmers. Because CSA yields are produced by local farms, shares (whether it be produce, eggs, meat, breads, etc.) are often the freshest food you can eat (besides the veggies from your garden of course). The variety of your share allows you to explore different types of food and flavors while teaching you how to cook the food in your share. (hint: for a recipe index try using Pinterest or foodgawker) Probably the most important reason to join a CSA is the relationship you will develop with your farm and farmers. By joining a CSA you will truly understand where your food comes from and how it’s grown.
Ok, so you’re ready to join… now what? Find a local CSA using local harvest. Or, if you live around Swarthmore, check out Greener Partners Hillside Farm. We recently became a drop spot for Hillside’s CSA shares which can be picked up Fridays starting in May. Full and medium shares are available from May to November. For more information click here.