If you didn’t already know what a CSA is, and you’ve been reading it about on the Book of Face, my blog, or other blogs, and you’re still not sure how to find one – here you go:
So what is a CSA, or more pointedly, what does CSA stand for? It’s Community Supported Agriculture. The typical CSA is mostly produce, but there are meat and fish CSAs as well. This year we signed up for the Sitka Salmon Share. So in 2014, we’re not only getting incredibly fresh and delicious produce, we’re also getting incredibly delicious and fresh (hook and line caught) Alaskan fish delivered directly to our door.
Back to the definition of CSA – in short, you’re purchasing a “one-time share for one season” to help the small local farmer operate their farm. In return you will receive a share in their bounty. Some CSAs offer both large and small shares, some only offer a single size share. Some CSAs deliver a box of fresh picked produce, other’s deliver grocery bag of fresh picked produce. Do your research, talk to the farmer and find out the particulars that are right for you.
Keep in mind, while you’re sharing in their bounty during good growing seasons, there also may be difficult growing seasons. As an example, the 2014 growing season in Wisconsin was incredibly wet in the spring, so it was difficult for many farmers to get their produce in their fields. Then as the summer wore on, the temps never really warmed up. It seemed like the days barely reached 70, and the nights dipped into the low to mid 50’s. Not ideal summer growing conditions for field tomatoes. Many farmers had to grow their tomatoes in hoop houses, because the fields just weren’t producing. In talking with David and Sandy at Pinehold Gardens, the cold wet spring didn’t help their garlic. While it was still incredibly good, they noted it wasn’t as big and readily available as in year’s past – some of their garlic rotted in the ground.
Then again, some produce thrives in cooler conditions. The spinach was out of this world, and it grew LONG into the season. The winter squash? Get outta here! So in the end, we still ended up with a lot of produce, just thin on some items, and heavy on others. So yes, each seasons’s yield may vary from the previous one.
The most important thing to keep in mind, is the term Supported. When you join a CSA, you’re supporting a small local organic farmer; both in what they grow, how they grow it, and how they care for their fields, animals, and the environment. While I believe the CSA is growing in popularity, the small local farmers are disappearing.
The one thing I’ve learned over the past year is this? These fabulous farmers are growing their food “FOR YOU”, not for your money. Your money helps them operate their farms so they can grow this food for you. And for that reason, I’m incredibly grateful for these fabulous and generous people.