Today's guest post is from our friend Aubrey over at Homegrown & Healthy. Aubrey has graciously offered to write this post to help us learn and navigate the world of Community Supported Agriculture. Thank you Aubrey!
Since we’ve dove, head first, into this ever expanding world of supporting our local stores and farmers, I’ve been seeing things everywhere talking about CSA’s. This is great! Unless you have no idea what a CSA is and you’re left feeling confused and alone. Don’t let all of the acronyms fool you, a CSA is something extremely simple, and here’s a conversation that I had with myself to help explain it.
First off, what does CSA even stand for? Community Supported Agriculture.
Wait, that’s not a name, that’s a description! Okay, you’re right, that’s more of a summary of what gets accomplished when people from the community show their support to their own local farmers by buying directly from farms.
So how do you “buy into” one then? There’s a lot of ways to support your local agriculture that allows you to shop whenever you want, however you want. However, the actual program that’s called CSA is broken down by seasons, and at the beginning of each season you pay the farmer a lump sum of money and then every week for the season they present you with a beautiful assorted bounty of food.
How does this make it easier for the farm? The majority of costs to the farmer take place while they’re growing their crops, which is weeks, usually months, before they ever get a finished product to the market or store. By giving them your payment up front you’re helping to offset some of those costs, and also showing them how much demand there is for their product.
How does this make it easier on me? Two ways: BUDGETING and EATING HEALTHY! If you’re eating the way we all know we should then the bulk of your grocery money should be going towards fruits and veggies. When you buy into a CSA your produce is paid off at the beginning of each season, so now all you have to do is put aside a few dollars a week for pantry items and dairy products—and sometimes those are even included!
Wait a second, I thought it was only fruits and veggies. What exactly can I expect to find in my haul? That’s hard to say! These programs are so personalized no two are alike. Your farm should be able to provide you with a pretty accurate description of what they usually give out, the average program offering enough fruits and veggies to feed a family of four. Some CSA’s even include dairy, meat, cheese, bread, honey, jams, and any other random local fare that they can find.
So they can give out food that isn’t directly from their farm? That all depends on what type of program you’re using. We’ve used third party programs where the CSA-provider collects food from other area farms and assembles them for us to take. Everyone gets a portion of the money (except us, of course) and in return we get more variety than what one farm can offer on their own. When searching for a program they should make it VERY CLEAR how they outsource their food. Be sure to find out if the food is local (as in, your surrounding cities) or regional (surrounding states)?
What if I don’t know what to do with all of the food that I’m getting? That’s what we’re here for! One of the best parts of the CSA is getting food that you normally wouldn’t find at the store. The whole reason I started my site was because I had no idea how to cook up all of this southern fare and was constantly researching to find out what to do with the collards, kale, and okra that I was getting. We update our site constantly, trying to provide information on what types of veggies we’re getting, what those vegetables are and how to store them, recipes and ways to prepare them, nutritional content– Pretty much anything we can think of that would help someone cook their CSA, we try to share it!
How do I find a program in our area? I would start with LocalHarvest.org, although depending where you live there may be many other resources for you.
So many choices! How do I pick just one? The great thing about buying from your community is that the farmers should be willing to let you come to their farm, scope things out, and ask them questions. Be sure to find out whether they practice eco and animal friendly practices. Not to go off on a tangent, but many small farms aren’t “certified” organic, but they do maintain organic practices, so be sure to word your questions appropriately so that you’re not excluding a great farm just because of a technicality. When it doubt, check them out. Ask them to see their livestock, about crop rotation, about their seeds (do they uses the dreaded GMO’s? They should know!)
Oh, I get it now, thanks for sharing all of this great information with us! You must be a pretty swell gal! How can we find out more about you? Aw, thanks! The website is Homegrown & Healthy and you can subscribe to us on our site at http://www.cookingmycsa.com, or you can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/homegrownhealthy or watch us on our NEW YouTube channel. I look forward to answering more of your questions, so if there’s anything else you’d like to know then you can email me at email@example.com and I can answer your details more directly!
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