I wanted to take a moment to give you some information about local CSAs. Some of you might be wondering what those letters even mean.
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, this is a way for the consumer (you and me) to get locally grown, seasonal produce directly from farmer's in our area. There are several perks of being part of a CSA. First of all, you know exactly where your food comes from. If you partner with a USDA Organic Farm, you have confidence that your produce is grown without harmful chemicals. Throughout the season you will get a chance to try an array of fresh fruits and veggies. I also enjoy knowing that I'm supporting a local business owner.
How does a CSA work?
Typically, you sign up for a "share" at the beginning of the season. This share is about a 1/2 bushel basket of produce. Rates will vary by farm but you can expect to pay around $400 for a half share (pick up every other week) or $700 for a full share (pick up every week). Summer season runs from May-October. The produce is picked when ripe and brought to a convenient pick-up location in your area. Some farms even offer multiple pick-up locations and/or days.
What types of produce can I expect?
Again, this will vary by farm but you can expect a variety of greens, lettuce, cabbage, melons, berries, peppers, squash, herbs, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, beets, broccoli, garlic, cauliflower, turnips, beans and more!
How big is a 1/2 bushel?
Do you see the picture at the top of this post? This is an example of what you can expect during the peak of the season.
Where can I find a local CSA?
A great place to start is by checking with friends or neighbors who have participated before. However, you can also use an online resource like Local Harvest which has a nationwide directory of local farmer's with CSA programs. If you are in Tennessee (like me), you can view the list on the Pick Tennessee Products webpage.
How do I sign up?
No matter which CSA you choose, you need decide quickly. Most farmers are wrapping up their enrollment period for the upcoming season. You can usually locate the sign-up form on their website. Typically you are required to send it in with a deposit and expected to pay the full amount on the 1st pick up day. Some farms also offer payment arrangements.
Last year was my 1st year to participate in a CSA and I chose Eaton's Creek. I chose them because they offer fruits, vegetables and herbs! They also have opportunities to purchase cheese, eggs and poultry from another local farmer throughout the season. Since it was my 1st year, I was a little bit apprehensive so I chose to split a share with another family. It was certainly a treat to experience the MANY different varieties of produce that showed up in my basket every other week. My favorite new item was the Dragon Carrots. Who knew that there were multiple kinds of carrots?
How many of you have participated in a CSA before? What advise do you have for those who are just learning about Community Supported Agriculture?