Most of us are aware of the many difficulties farmers have, within recent years, encountered. Many farmers have been forced to shut down the farm for good; others are following closely on their heels. We won’t discuss the reasons behind all of that right now; let’s concentrate on how we can help our own local farmers. Have you heard of Commuity Supported Agriculture (CSA)? It’s a way that we, as normal food consumers, can pay in advance for some of our foods and that money goes towards supporting your regional farmers. In exchange, as the crops come in, you’re first in line to receive the goods.
There are good and bad elements involved with CSA. For example, some farmers save their best produce to sell at farmers markets and other places while providing CSA members the smaller or inferior produce. Not fair. Should you try a CSA group, ask for referrals so you can talk to others who are involved with that particular group. See if they’ve been satisfied with their memberships. Or, participate in a CSA group which breaks down the farmer’s categories, like produce, meat, and dairy, and try out one category before joining others.
Some CSA groups make you sign up for every category as a total package. Others allow you to choose categories. You pay a certain amount for the entire package, or for the chosen categories, in advance. This money will go to help the farmers plant, tend and harvest. Later, when the crops come in, you will receive 12 or 24 weeks of those foods – depending upon the group and/or subcategories. Some groups have a pickup once a week. Others have two per week. Most seasons run from June through August. Make sure you understand the entire program before signing up with a Community Supported Agriculture group.
Some foods will be chosen by you whereas others are pre-selected and you simply pick them up. Amongst foods that you select yourself are fruits and vegetables. Others which are chosen for you include most any meat, fish or foul. Some packages offered by the CSA groups include meats, fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, milk and eggs.
The amount of each food you receive is dependent upon the share package you sign up for. Half-shares feed one to two people. Full shares feed between four and five people.
Check to see if you have a CSA group in your town – many large cities have them. It’s also possible to start your own CSA. Read more about the groups, how to volunteer, prices on the packages or how to start your own CSA by visiting Local Roots, NYC.