Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a big deal around here with so many local farms. What is a CSA, you say? It is program where you buy a share of a local farm and get to share in the produce grown there throughout the season. It is a wonderful way to support local farms, eat seasonally, and eat fruits and vegetables grown locally.
Each year in the late winter / early spring, I start researching which farm I would like to partner with for their CSA share. There are a bunch of great farms in Middle Tennessee that offer a CSA. You can find a good list on Pick TN Products. I’ve participated in a CSA for the past several years and have tried several different farms. It helps my family eat more vegetables during the summer, for sure, and gets us to try new things. Who knew we love roasted okra? I would’ve never tried that if it weren’t for my CSA. But you have to be willing to try new things! And there have been several weeks when I post a picture on Facebook to help identify what I’ve even gotten. We think it’s a lot of fun, kind of an adventure with every box.
Community Support Agriculture comes in many different varieties. There are options for fruits and vegetables only, some offer eggs, meats, or jams and jellies that they’ve made – an assortment of different choices depending on the farm you choose. Some are certified organic, others use organic practices but are not certified.
Each farm does things a little differently. For the veggie options, there are normally options for a full share – a box each week – or a half share. For the half share, some farms will give a smaller box every week, while others give a full box every other week. Some have pickup locations all over town at churches and businesses, others only a couple of pickup locations or maybe at the local farmer’s markets, and still others offer home delivery. Some invite you to their farm to meet them and see where your food is grown. Some send a weekly newsletter to share the ups and downs of farming.
While there are many benefits to participating in a CSA, there is also a risk. Since you are buying a share of a farm, if the farm does not produce what they expected, then you would also share in that loss. I have not ever experienced that in my years with a CSA, but it is something to be warned about.
Things to Consider
- Pickup locations and day/time, or do they offer home delivery?
- Size of a share – full share vs half share?
- Frequency of pickups – Are half shares every week or every other week?
- Length of the season – How many weeks will you be picking up your share?
- Do they offer winter shares for a year-round CSA?
- What is the cost?
- Farming practices – Are they certified organic?
- What kinds of vegetables can you expect?
- Can you visit the farm?
- Do they have add-on items, like eggs, meats, jams, or bread?
- Are the shares customizable at all?
- Can you skip a week if you are on vacation?
- What kind of communication will you get from the farm – weekly email newsletter, a post on their blog, etc?
It does take a little researching and planning to see which farm’s CSA is going to work best with your lifestyle and schedule. But I highly recommend one if you are trying to eat healthier, incorporate new veggies into your diet, or if you want to support local agriculture.