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Beginners Guide to Understanding Farmshares and CSA’s
Farmshares are a way for regular people to connect with local farmers by purchasing a portion, or a ‘share,’ of what their local farmers grow each season. You may find farmshares in your local community going under another name – they are also called CSA’s or Community Supported Agriculture groups. A farmshare program or CSA will have farmers who can offer everything from fruits to vegetables to cut flowers to meat and dairy products, depending on what the farmers are doing on their farms.
CSA’s and farmshares are a great way to connect with local farms and increase sustainability. There was a push to encourage people to only eat foods that they could find within 50-100 miles of their home around 2010. This trend encouraged people to find new ways to connect with local food sources, and they’ve really grown in popularity. The big push encouraged people to take a real look at where their food was coming from. For many, learning that many types of food may be grown in America but then shipped overseas for processing before coming back was eye-opening. By focusing our attention on food grown close to home, we can support our local communities and bring healthier food into our homes.
- single farmers that want to connect with customers
- customers who want to connect with local farmers
- a group of farmers offering a variety of products
- organizations, such as businesses and churches, who bring a customer base to connect
Getting connected with a CSA or Farmshare program is the first step in getting access to your own box of fresh, often organic, produce and other products. Most CSA’s offer half or full shares. They will let you know how much produce you can expect depending on what size share you purchase. Commonly, a half-share is able to provide enough produce for 1-2 people over the course of a week. A full share can usually feed 3-4 people.
How it works for Consumers –
You have to sign up, and in most cases, pay your membership upfront. It may seem like a lot of money upfront because membership is often a few hundred dollars depending on location. However, when you break it down by week, you’re really getting a deal. In fact, I recommend that you contact your local CSA or Farmshare, get the prices, and then compare them to your grocery receipts! You’ll be amazed at how much you save!
Your CSA may arrange a trip to your principal farm, and you’ll get to meet the staff, and this is likely when and where you’ll pick up your first box of produce. This helps the consumers know where to go and what to expect throughout the season.
Generally, you’ll go every week to pick up your produce at your farm or CSA pickup location.
So why should you join a CSA:
- It’s cheap food
- It’s fresh and healthy food
- You’re supporting local farmers
- You get to expand your palate and cooking skills
- CSA’s show where your food comes from
- Your footprint will shrink
- You’ll meet great new people
Reasons why you might not want to join a CSA:
- If you eat out a lot, chances are most of your produce will go to waste – ways around this include sharing with a friend or neighbor.
- Life happens and if something happens to your farm – like a blight – you may not get much produce at all. It’s a little bit of a gamble.
- You have no control over what is in your box every week. You’re going to get what’s in season.
- Your CSA may require you to be part of a volunteer rotation.
Important: You may get so much food every week that you can’t possibly eat it all. Reach out to friends and neighbors, or plan to preserve. You can find small-batch canning books and alternative uses for
Working with a CSA or farmshare program doesn’t mean you have to cut out the farmer’s market. In fact, your local farmers’ market is a great way to supplement ingredients that you may not have access to through your CSA. Going to the farmer’s market gives you a chance to look at other farms in the area and what they sell and have access to different products your CSA may not have.