Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have grown mightily over the last few decades. As the decline in small local farms continues, CSA programs have managed to gain ground, with thousands of farms participating across North America. But what is a CSA?
A CSA is a subscription service where community members purchase shares from local farmers (this can be produce, flowers, meat, milk, etc.). It’s essentially putting a monetary value on community support with the understanding that the community and the farmers are in it together. If it’s a great growing year then everybody wins and there’s plenty to go around. If it’s an unpredictable growing year and the weather is off and the pest pressure is high then the community members bear the brunt of the season with the farm and hopefully decide to keep supporting the farm throughout other more successful seasons. It’s support through and through! So why join a CSA?
1. Fresh, local, healthy produce: Obviously, this may be the number one reason many people join a CSA. It’s a weekly guarantee that you’ll have access to the freshest produce from your own region, which often tastes SO MUCH better! Fresh produce of a wider variety also allows the CSA customer to branch out and try different items. Additionally, many natural food items lose up to 50% of their nutritional value in transportation to supermarket shelves.
2. Save Money: Though a CSA subscription may seem like a lot upfront, it’s really an investment in lowering your grocery bill down the line, especially when many of our pricier in-store purchases tend to be impulse snack choices. When you break it down to price per week, it ends up being way cheaper than your average grocery bill and it’s filled with higher quality, more nutrient-dense food items.
3. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: The current global food system has been beneficial in providing us with a constant supply of any food we want whenever we want it. But this diversion from seasonality comes at a great cost. Not only is food from far-off places less nutritionally dense, but it’s also less likely to be organic, fresh, or even that tasty and it comes with a pretty hefty carbon footprint to boot. Even if it’s labeled as organic, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for the environment when it has traveled across the globe and been grown using industrial (wasteful) methods. A CSA membership cuts this carbon footprint down to the tiniest fraction, especially if you know your farmers’ growing techniques and can guarantee they use minimal machinery and plastic in their growing practices.
4. Support Your Local Farm and Community: Farms are more than just the land that grows the food. They’re also filled with people who love, work, and invest in their local communities. Additionally, as you may be able to tell by the name, CSAs are all about supporting local agriculture. Small farms are constantly trying to find ways to innovate and succeed within a system that seems to work against them. Large industrial monocrop farms tend to have more government support, yet they provide very little in way of nutrient density to the tablescape of America. By showing up and supporting your local small farms at the beginning of the season, you’re helping the farm do what it does best: grow food and care for its local community and environment.
Check out our website for information on our next CSA season and to invest in the future health of yourself, your family, and your community today!
Have you heard of Booker T. Whatley? We hadn’t until recently. He is thought to be one of the originators of the modern CSA structure. Here’s an excerpt taken from A Growing Culture:
Today we want to highlight the man who brought us the CSA, Dr. Booker T. Whatley. We champion him for his work helping to guide BIPOC farmers into freedom from an unjust food system.
Born on November 5th, 1915, Booker grew up on a farm as the eldest of twelve. Growing up, he saw how Black farms were disappearing, & the only ones that still existed struggled to compete with industrialized agriculture. Booker pursued a degree in agricultural studies at Alabama A&M University. He was able to serve in the Korean War by operating a 55-acre hydroponic farm that provided food for the troops. Following his return from the war, he received his doctorate in horticulture & became a professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Popular movements like “Pick-Your-Own” & “Farm-to-Table” can be credited to Dr. Whatley’s ability to bridge his knowledge of organic agriculture & social justice. Seeing an opportunity to help small Black-owned farms survive, Dr. Whatley created “clientele membership clubs”, the forerunners of the CSA, to “enable the farmer to plan production, anticipate demand & have a guaranteed market.