Several people asked me to diary on CSA’s in a welcome wagon thread.  As a disclaimer, let me state that I am not a farmer, but merely an enthusiastic member, and convert to the world of CSA.  The concept of a CSA is quite simple- members pay a farmer in advance for a share of all the crops (s)he grows in a year.  Each week, members travel to the farm and collect a share of the week’s harvest.  In this way, small farmers are encouraged to experiment with interesting crops, grow organic veggies, and keep our vital farmlands in production.  Members share in the risks and benefits inherent in farming- the farmer is guaranteed an income- in good years members get lots of produce, in bad years members share in the farmer’s losses.  More after the break…
So… it seems a simple economic/agricultural system, why do people become converts to this form of farming?

Maybe it is the search for community- you go to the farm in the same 3-4 hour block of time each week.  While there you run into the same people each time- people that share your desire to feed your family well, protect the environment, and build community.  I know the farmer who grows my food, my kids play with his kids- how many Americans can say that?

Maybe it is the connection with the land- unlike the people that shop at supermarkets I know the fields where my food is growing.  Most farms require a 6-12 hour per year work commitment-   members get out in the fields, dig in the soil, plant vegetables,  harvest crops, and learn about their food.  Many of us work extra hours when we can.  Some veggies (peas, beans, cherry tomatoes) are pick your own.  I love walking with my kids into the fields to pick their beans (and they love eating the beans they pick!)

Maybe it is the challenge-  belonging to a CSA means redefining your eating habits- you have to learn to eat with the seasons.  Greens this week, white turnips and snap peas next week.  You have to learn to design your menu around veggies at the peak of ripeness in your area.  You also have to learn to preserve veggies to enjoy later (I still have one can of last year’s tomatoes and a few pesto cubes).

Maybe it is just the food-  abundant, top quality, organically grown and diverse.  When I buy a head of lettuce at the supermarket it was picked 10 days ago in California or last week in Florida.  When I get lettuce at the farm, it was picked that morning (or afternoon).  It is like having my own garden without the commitment and with much greater diversity.  

So, how can you get in on the action?

To learn more about CSA’s and their history, and to find a farm near you visit
http://www.csacenter.org/
http://www.biodynamics.com/csa.html.  
To learn about a couple of great farms in MA visit
http://www.heirloomharvestcsa.com
http://stearnsfarmcsa.org/

I am curious, how many in the frog pond belong to CSA’s?

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