I don’t know about you all, but I am so looking forward to spring and summer here in the Midwest! Even though the winter was mild I can’t wait for nice weather…and farmers markets and locally grown produce! After months of winter vegetables and not-picked-that-day produce, I am anxiously awaiting fresh garden faire!
My folks had a HUGE garden when I was growing up. Sheepishly I’ll admit, I wasn’t the most helpful kid where harvest and preserving were concerned, although I did do some! And I can certainly appreciate now, as an adult, the good food that was grown right in our backyard. My husband and I have dabbled in having our own garden–we have had a couple of small raised-beds for a number of years now. However, we are not very successful farmers. At. All!! 🙂 So even though we have our own garden we always supplement our meager yield with produce from the local farmers markets or from a CSA share.
What is a CSA share you ask??
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, it means the consumer (YOU!) buys a “share” of a farm’s fresh crop of produce. For the price of the “share”, the consumer will receive fresh produce, usually weekly or biweekly, at a predetermined drop-off location. Farms typically invite their “shareholders” to the farm for special events, too.
For those of you reading in the Madison/Dane County area, check out www.csacoalition.org to get started. This site will link you to a listing of farms and how to sign up.
If you are outside the Madison area, a simple web search for CSAs in your area should help give you a point in the right direction for what is available near you. If there is a grocery co-op where you shop, you could also check with them. They may have some farm recommendations or know where to point you for more resources.
What are some details to consider when enrolling for a CSA share?
- A CSA share is typically vegetables but depending upon the farm, fruit, cheese, meat, eggs, and coffee may also be offered. If you are an adventurous eater/cook, you will probably really like receiving unusual offerings like ramps, nettles, or burdock.
- Most farms will include recipes along with the produce that week to help you out with prep ideas. Also, many farms have additional recipes and resources on their website–a huge help for when you receive a share with food your aren’t familiar with.
- If you would like more control over what you receive in your share, you may wish to look for a farm that lets you pick your own produce buffet-style. I have not done a CSA share this way personally, but it is a nice option for getting high quality, fresh produce when you don’t necessarily have a broad taste for different veggies.
- Each farm does their share delivery differently…check their website when you are researching so you know WHERE share pickup will occur.
- Larger farms usually have sites that they deliver to. At registration, you select your pick up site. Each week on the assigned day/time you head to the pickup site to get your share.
- Larger farms may also deliver to businesses. Again, check their site to see if they may deliver to your place of business or one near you for easy pickup.
- If the farm is smaller, you may only have the option to pick up directly at the farm. The advantage with a smaller farm though is the possibility of direct-to-door-delivery. It is likely they all don’t offer this, but some might!! If you have an extremely tight schedule, this might be a fantastic option for you.
- How often you pick up your CSA share will vary based on what you purchase and what the farm offers. Typically, shares are offered weekly, but some farms offer bi-weekly.
- Some farms may offer “flex share:” that would allow you a given number of boxes on the weeks of your choosing.
- You can purchase your shares for the peak of the growing season (typically June through September, an extended season (May through October), or you can purchase shares year round and take advantage of winter root vegetable offerings, too.
SIGN UP AND PAYMENT
- Contact the farm directly or fill out their registration form (many have online PDFs directly on their site).
- Sign up early! Many farms begin accepting share enrollment in February or March, so if you know where you want to purchase a share get your registration in because shares can run out.
- Payment differs per farm. Some will allow post-dated checks for deposit on specific dates. Some may require the full payment up front. Finally, others still may do online payments. All this information will be included on the farm website or in the registration paperwork. As with anything, simply ask if you aren’t sure. I have found the farmers to be super friendly and accommodating!
AMOUNT OF PRODUCE
- As you are looking at the share options on a website, they will usually outline what a typical share includes and how many people you can expect the share to feed.
- If bi-weekly shares aren’t an option at a particular farm, see if a friend/another family would split the share with you: each of you pays for half and picks up every other week.
- Start with the smallest share offered, which is usually the peak season one of 3-4 months. Steer clear of the longer offerings until you know how to manage the food quantity and if the offerings appeal to you.
Why is a CSA so darn awesome??
- They are a super-convenient way to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy produce.
- The portioning is all built in for you.
- You get recipes along with the food so you don’t have to research how to use things.
- You always have new produce coming…no chance to get bored.
- You can try foods you are unfamiliar with. We have tried mustard greens, tatsoi, Daikon radish, ramps, romanesco, and others…had we not had a CSA share we never would have ventured to try and prepare these foods!
Go on a give a CSA share a shot! I highly doubt you’ll regret doing so!
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