Let’s say you don’t have a particularly green thumb 💁 or space in your yard for a bountiful garden 🙋, but you know you need more fresh fruits and veggies in your life. And it would probably be ideal if those didn’t come from, say, Peru, or even California. (No offense Grocery Stores of the World, but we wanna show some love to the environment.) What to do?
Luckily, there are programs out there that allow consumers to become shareholders in local farms. It’s called Community Supported Agriculture, and the model was developed in the United States in the late 1980s as an extension of European biodynamic farming practices.
Why choose a CSA?
Through this model, the farmer tends to the harvest each season, growing a variety of native fruits and vegetables and delivering them to shareholders weekly through the season at a common pick-up location. The consumer pays a fee for his or her share in advance, underwriting the cost of farm operations. Not only is it an investment in the farm itself, the CSA model ensures consumers have a choice in how their food is grown and provides an excellent educational opportunity for families and community members.
The CSA season is determined by the region and length of growing season — farms may offer anywhere from 20 to 27 weeks of produce or more, depending on location. Many CSA farms offer different share sizes. Half shares provide enough produce for a family of two for one week, while full shares feed a family of four. And there are often more options than just fruits and vegetables — some farms partner with others to offer local meats, cheeses, and even flowers to their CSA menu.
Farmers also get creative with their pricing structure. For example, consumers at A Place on Earth CSA Farm in Henry County, Kentucky, can elect to pay the entire fee for their half or full shares, or they can get a discount for being willing to get their hands dirty. In exchange for four hours of work on the farm each week, workers receive a full vegetable share at a lower price — and they get to be a part of the local effort to provide food to the community.
As with any investment, there are risks. When you pay for a CSA share in advance, you agree to support the farm financially without knowing what Mother Nature has in store in terms of weather. Excessive rain, freezing temperatures, drought and damaging winds can all play a part in putting the hurt on a harvest, and can ultimately affect how much produce you receive. But CSA farmers use your financial support to employ tactics that protect crops from these dangers as much as possible.
And on the upside, if the bounty is particularly fruitful (no pun intended)? You reap the benefits of that too.
‘Find your own personal farmer!’
Ford and Amanda Waterstrat operate Sustainable Harvest Farm in London, Kentucky — a USDA-certified organic operation — and deliver to CSA members in several surrounding communities. The farm is a dream realized for this couple, who have mutual love of the outdoors, wholesome food, environmental stewardship and rural community life.
The Waterstrats have offered a traditional CSA program for some time, but learned through feedback from members that being able to customize what they get in their box each week was highly desired. So they were able to adapt their model to allow consumers to select what they want in their box from what’s available at the farm each week.
“We really love being a certified organic CSA farm because helping families sit down together to eat a great tasting, healthy meal is pretty amazing,” Ford said. “To be farming in a way that nourishes the ecosystem and nourishes family is an honor for us. It would be glorious if one day all families were sitting around the dinner table eating fresh organic farm products from a farmer in their community. Go out and find your own personal farmer!”To find a CSA farm near you, visit https://www.localharvest.org/csa/ or http://harvie.farm/.