What is a CSA?
A CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is a program that is designed to benefit both farmers and consumers and give consumers unprecedented access to farm fresh produce. It has been popularized in recent years thanks to the surging local food movement.
When you purchase a CSA share, your are actually purchasing a “plot” on the farm for the allotted duration of the CSA program. Then you can pick up your produce from the farm or a designated drop-off location such as your workplace or community center. Your weekly box is your “share” of the harvest that week from your plot on the farm. You get all the benefits of farming without any of the work!
How does the CSA program work?
When you purchase a CSA you are generally buying into a long-term agreement with a local farm. You typically pay by the season. But, in some cases, you can purchase a half year or full year for even more savings. In return for paying up front, each week you’ll receive a box that is worth more in value than what you paid upfront. This early bulk payment allows the farmer security in planning for his or her season allowing them to make necessary purchases for the growing season. This includes items such as seeds, fertilizers, equipment, and other materials at the start of the season without having to come out of pocket. In addition, it helps farmers with the challenge of selling their produce, since a large portion will already be spoken for before it’s even planted.
CSAs can vary in size or offering. Generally, shares will aim to meet either an individual’s needs or a family’s needs week to week. What you get will determine what farm you go through and what they grow season by season. Many CSAs also offer add-ons where you can add eggs, dairy, and value-added products like jams, jellies, and salsa to your weekly share. This varies by farm, not all CSAs will come with these options. Shopping around to find a CSA that is right for you can go a long way to ensuring you get what you actually want to eat.
Most CSAs have a variety of payment plans to enable members flexibility in paying for their shares. Some CSAs can arrange payments in installments, accept food stamps, offer sliding scale fees, and provide scholarship shares. It will vary by farm but with a little bit of research, you can find a CSA that fits your budget.
When can I buy a CSA?
As you may have guessed, CSAs are typically only around during the growing season. Here in CT and New England, that’s June to November for most farms. So we are right at the start of CSA season!
What great timing because we have a special announcement heading out next week about a new program Trifecta will be launching out of our new Sprout Food Hub in Meriden. We’ll be using the CSA model to create a specialized buying experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else. You’re going to have to see it to believe it, so make sure you are following the blog or our social media channels (facebook, Instagram, twitter) to see what we have in store for you!