In the summer I try to exclusively eat produce from my garden and the farmer's market, and it's really not difficult. Stone fruits from the market are gorgeous, affordable, and delicious. I always get a bounty of vegetables from surprisingly small amount of space. The winter, however, is quite different from the summer. November through April I harvest little to nothing from my own house, and the farmer's markets are not that much fun either. Browsing for food in the cold and rain is just not my idea of a good time... I realize this is very un-Pacific northwest of me, but I am originally from southern California, so please give me a break. Rather than browsing for food in the rain, I subscribe to a CSA in the fall, winter, and spring. This means that each week I receive a box of fresh produce and eggs from a local farm. The farm actually delivers the box to a central location in my neighborhood, where I pick it up, along with about 20 of my neighbors.
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and it is just that. A CSA is a direct link between a farm and a community of consumers. The general CSA model is that each season a farm, usually small and organic, will offer a certain number of "shares/subscriptions" to the public. Consumers, such as myself, buy a share before the season begins, and each week we pick up a box of produce.
Why participate in a CSA?
- Each week you get a box of goodies, which to me feels somewhat like a grown up care package.
- CSA's are an easy way to buy delicious, seasonal produce directly from producers (ie: no standing in the rain).
- All of your produce will be fresh, organic, and local.
- You get to try new produce. For example, I tried rutabaga for the first time this year because I got it in my CSA box. Rutabaga is delicious!!!
- Farmers get paid a fair amount for their product (much more than what they receive from produce distributers).
- In addition to supporting a sustainable food system, by participating in a CSA one is also supporting a sustainable economic system. Supporting local farms, means supporting the local economy.
- CSA participants are able to have an intimate connection with the way their food was produced. For example, I know that Wendy and Erik, of Jubilee Farm, are the ones who made sure that my food has been produced in a healthy, sustainable way.
- A successful CSA program allows farmers to spend their time marketing their product(s) early in the year, before their crazy, busy summers... when they need to focus on growing the food.
- CSAs also provide farmers with cash flow in the slow season, which helps them prepare for the coming season (cash to buy seeds and equipment with), and maintain a sustainable economic model for themselves.