CSA Sign-up Season is Here!
Summer may seem far away, but it’s an exciting time for many farms across the country. It’s a time of year when CSA sign-ups for the upcoming season open up, and minds are officially shifted to new crops and field planning.
For over 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy locally grown, seasonal food directly from a farmer. It is a way to know your farmer and to know exactly where your food is coming from. Plus, it makes it easy to commit to both healthy eating and local shopping.
Each CSA farm offers a slightly different system, depending on what works best for them and their customers. However, CSA’s have a universal objective, which is to connect farmers directly with their customers and acts as an upfront commitment to the growing season. Receiving payments early on in the season allows the farmer to plan production to precisely meet customer needs, and helps to fund the large expenses that occur early in the season, such as seeds, soil, and compost.
Farms typically offer a certain number of “shares” (or memberships) to the public, and these members receive an allotment of seasonal produce each week throughout the season. Some CSA models offer a pre-packed box of various veggies, while others offer a “farmers market” style pick-up where members are able to choose their own assortment of food.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumers. Here are some examples:
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, at a better cost than retail (that also lasts longer!)
• Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
• Many farms offer to pick up at the farm, in which case members (and their kids) can see the farm on a regular basis throughout the season. Many farms also offer U-pick gardens, available to members only
• 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
Today, food production has shifted to where it is most “efficient,” where chemicals and technology reduce the need for human power and where fair labor becomes quietly ignored. Join our Michigan farmers this year as they tirelessly advocate against this system and feed our community with healthy, clean, and fair food. Find a CSA in your area here, Find Food & Farms, and join a CSA to support your local farmer and community!
Rebecca Henderson is the West Michigan Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and the CSA Manager for Green Wagon Farm. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to find a CSA in West Michigan!
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