A friend recently expressed concern about the lack of stock of quality produce at one of our local stores. I, too, have noted this, as well as limited choices when it comes to fruits and veggies. That same day, my husband alerted me to a story on NPR about farmers who typically sell to restaurants, but were looking for new ways to sell their high quality produce. Many have decided to sell directly to consumers through CSAs. A lack of quality produce at the store + farmers selling restaurant quality produce through CSAs = sign me up!
Let’s take a step back. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal produce directly from farmers. Farmers choose to allot a certain amount of the food they grow to consumers. CSAs do not only provide produce. Some provide eggs, meat, honey, flowers. The idea is that you support them financially, so they have a certain amount of guaranteed income. And, you benefit with fresh, local food. It fosters a closer relationship with the farmer and the consumer.
We’ve considered a CSA in the past, but have never bitten the bullet. Well, pressure leads to change. I began with a quick search on how to find a CSA. I discovered a few helpful sites. One was the USDA Local Food Directories . Another, which I found most helpful, was Local Harvest. Local Harvest was quite comprehensive. They seemed to have more farms. The site gives a nice synopsis of each farm, including what they provide, costs, location, drop off sites, delivery options, contact information, and so on.
We took some time to compare the various options. It can be a little confusing, as there are different time frames for when produce and other products are available, frequency of delivery, costs, organic vs. inorganic, and variety of produce grown. Some farms have additional options like Chef’s Choice, where you would get more unique veggies and other items that you might find in a restaurant. Being challenged to integrate new foods into our diet was tempting.
Additionally, we had to consider if we wanted the option to buy meats, eggs, fish, flowers, herbs. Several farms had the option to add some of these as additions for an extra fee. I liked the idea of having these as an add on, so that played into our final decision.
In light of the current circumstances (shelter in place due to coronavirus) and being unsure how long this situation will last, I like the idea of having access to a local, sustainable farm with produce, eggs, meat, and more. As I discussed before, perhaps this is time for all of us to think about changing the way we do things. Where and how we buy our food could end up changing sooner than we expected. Committing to a new way of purchasing food makes sense.
We ended up choosing a CSA from a farm that is about 120 miles from our home. We ended up going with one that delivers and has the option of adding eggs, meat, and fish (Coho salmon that they bring in from Alaska). Delivery starts in June. I will keep you posted on how our experience goes. Do you use a CSA or have you in the past? How was your experience?