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Developing a Relationship with a CSA.

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Thinking about signing up for a CSA but want to learn more about the idea before you commit? Read on.

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief…

Advantages for farmers:
• Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
• Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
• Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:
• Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
• Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
• Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
• Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
• Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

It’s a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it. The government does not track CSAs, so there is no official count of how many CSAs there are in the U.S.. LocalHarvest has the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, with over 2,500 listed in our grassroots database. In 2008, 557 CSAs signed up with LocalHarvest, and in the first two months of 2009, an additional 300 CSAs joined the site.

Variations 
As you might expect with such a successful model, farmers have begun to introduce variations. One increasingly common one is the “mix and match,” or “market-style” CSA. Here, rather than making up a standard box of vegetables for every member each week, the members load their own boxes with some degree of personal choice. The farmer lays out baskets of the week’s vegetables. Some farmers encourage members to take a prescribed amount of what’s available, leaving behind just what their families do not care for. Some CSA farmers then donate this extra produce to a food bank. In other CSAs, the members have wider choice to fill their box with whatever appeals to them, within certain limitations. (e.g. “Just one basket of strawberries per family, please.”)

Sandy’s Produce was just featured in Sunset Magazine. Congratulations Sandy!
Northern Arizona has one, it’s the only one available right now..check out Sandy’s Produce List for produce in your neighborhood or get listed. Also they are promoting the movie “Fresh.” It’s an excellent movie, if you haven’t seen it yet, get your tickets.

ANNOUNCEMENT:

Whole Foods is now offering help to Community Supported Agriculture programs. Consumers can now pick up their pre-ordered produce from local farms at stores. Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/08/2055665/farm-fresh-shoppers-can-now-order.html#ixzz1DOm4sp5J
Whole Foods is expanding a program that offers Florida farms free use of Whole Foods stores throughout the state as drop-off and pick-up points for weekly CSA deliveries. The chain began testing the idea late last year at five Florida stores with two farms.

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