There may not be many local fruits and vegetables available in your county this time of year, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the summer! Community supported agriculture (CSA) sign-ups typically take place in the winter and spring, before local farmers are busy planting and harvesting their crops. Taking part in CSA is a great way to enjoy local food, build a relationship with a farmer or farming family, and become more knowledgeable about the way your food is grown.
What is CSA?
The USDA National Agricultural Library defines CSA as “a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.”
How Does CSA Work?
Signing up for a CSA program means that you are purchasing a share of a farmer’s produce in advance of the growing season. Your pre-season payment helps your farmer to purchase the seeds, soil, supplies and labor that he or she needs for the year. Once the growing season begins, you receive a portion of the produce, usually on a weekly basis, often from June-October in Ohio. Each week brings different fruits, vegetables and herbs, depending on what is in season.
Why Join a CSA program?
Joining a CSA program is a sure way to become more familiar with the local produce that is available in your community. You may receive items that you haven’t tried before or would not typically purchase at the store, which can inspire creativity in the kitchen and add various nutrients to your diet. CSA programs can be a fun way to expose kids to new fruits and veggies, too. Research suggests that kids may be more willing to try new fruits and vegetables when they help to select or prepare them.
Still on the fence? Check out “CSA: What’s in it for me?”
If you are ready to give CSA a try, Local Harvest is a good resource for locating programs near you. If you live in Ohio, you also may want to check with your county Extension office to see if there is a local foods guide for your community.