Community-supported agriculture, or CSA for short, is continuing to grow in popularity as people increasingly recognize the value of a healthy, high-quality diet. CSA programs offered by many farms let consumers pay a membership fee to receive regular shares of fresh, often organic, food throughout the season.
Depending on the farm, CSA members might have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy or all of these items from the same farm. In an age where much of the food supply is shipped thousands of miles to the point of purchase, fresh food from a local farm is a refreshing way to eat healthfully and contribute to local food production.
Find a CSA in Your Vicinity
While some CSAs may be found by word of mouth, at farmers markets or on supermarket bulletin boards, most CSAs are now discovered on the Internet. Websites such as LocalHarvest.org make finding a local CSA easy with search options for desired products and distance from any location. This way, you can also find farms that are willing to deliver to you or your neighborhood if driving to pick up your fresh food share isn’t feasible.
Join Early to Enjoy the Harvest
After finding a local CSA with the right products, services and prices to fit your needs, call the company to find out how to join. Many companies list this information on their websites or at LocalHarvest.org, simplifying the process. Most farms have a limited amount of produce each season, so it’s best to inquire about membership availability as early as possible. If a particular farm is already at full capacity for the season, ask if they have a waiting list for the next year’s shares if you’re interested. Once you find a CSA to join, pay your initial membership fee and await your first shares of farm-fresh vittles.
Participation Pays Off
Depending on the CSA you choose, you might have opportunities to pick some of your shares yourself straight from the ground during the season. Several Western Pennsylvania CSA farms give their shareholders options for various categories of produce in each share. Share owners from other counties stay in nearby Washington PA hotels to be on hand to pick their own choice produce during its unique harvest time. Some CSA farms charge by the share in addition to the one-time membership fee, and many farms deliver to pick-up points chosen for the convenience of all the shareholders.
Maximize Your CSA Experience
If you don’t find everything you need from one CSA farm, you can always have multiple memberships. Many farms specialize in meat, dairy, or vegetables, so multiple share owning is often the best way to have plenty of healthy fresh food throughout the year. If you find that you have more food than you know what to do with, you can always preserve it or give it away to friends and family who will surely be grateful for the gift.
Joining a CSA program is an excellent way to support the health and well being of your family and the world. By eating local food that’s in-season, you may also feel more in tune with your body and the environment. Finally, eating locally produced food is a vital step toward creating a more sustainable future for everyone.