As defined by wikipedia, Community-supported agriculture or CSA for short, is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution.
The National Agricultural Library gets a little deeper in its definition of a CSA:
Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.
Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.
To break it down further (my definition), is that with a CSA, you are buying in to a local farm or group to help cover the cost of the farming. In return, every week, two weeks, month, or whatever you determine your frequency to be, you get a big box of goodies from the farm. That can include pretty much anything depending upon the service you use and to me that is part of the beauty of a CSA. I happen to use a service called Farm Fresh To You, that is based in Northern California.
FFTY is organic produce delivery directly to your home or office from their family farm or local organic farmers.
Joining a CSA was a decision I made a few months ago after watching a ton of videos online, reading reviews, comparing prices and its probably one of the greatest decisions that I have made in a long time… as I have said here in a lot of posts, I’m a lazy bastard. I’m not necessarily a lazy bastard when it comes to things like working and getting shit done, but I’m lazy as hell is doing things that I know I should do but dont really want to go through with the hassle of doing. Going to a farmers market, is one of those things.
A CSA, basically, is like shopping at a farmers market – but its just the farmers market coming to your door and you dont really have absolute power in what you are getting. The way that FFTY works is, when you sign up, they have a pretty comprehensive list of all of the crops on their farm and if you choose to you can go through and click off the things you dont like, and when they come up in the crop, they won’t end up in your delivery. You cant necessarily customize your box on a regular basis to have everything you want, but you can definitely customize the things that you DONT want, which to me, is a better way to go. One of the really fun things about a CSA is that its basically a surprise pack of items and you have to figure out what to do with all the shit that shows up. Trust me, you get really really creative after a couple of deliveries where you end up just stir frying whatever you have left after you done your usual thing.
Check out this video on a CSA in Portland call Sauvie Island Organics:
Back when I was making my decision of whether or not to join up with a farm, I watched a ton of these videos. One of the things that I like most about being a part of a CSA, is not necessairly that I am eating better and eating food that is pesticide free and super organic and blah blah blah, but moreso that I am literally helping out with small business. Funny thing is that it has bled into my regular shopping experiences as well. When I do need something quick, I dont go to the big super markets anymore, but I find myself shopping at the smaller, local markets that are family owned and been around for a long time.
Now, dont get me wrong when I make a statement like that inferring that I am against big business and things like that, because I like making as much money as possible as the next guy, but I think there is something very romantic and very American about supporting independent business people who are doing good. Its the same reason that when I go to restaurants I like to buy at the smaller restaurants that are in my city that arent part of some big conglomerate. Not necessarily because I feel like they deserve it more, or that the big box places dont, but more because it makes sense to support places close to your house, because well, you live close by. You want to have all the storefronts full, you want to be able to get everything that you need close to you… the idea to me is that the people who have spots close to you, earn money from the community, but they are also part of the community and spend money in the community. community community community. Sorry about that, just seemed like I was writing community a lot.
At the end of the day, a CSA makes sense, on a lot of levels… check out CSA’s that are close to and think about joining up, you will be pleasantly surprised, I promise.