Have the shop local and farm-to-table food movements sparked your interest and motivated you to cook with more sustainable, healthy foods? Yeah, us too. So we’re here to help with this beginner’s guide to CSAs so you can easily break down and bulk up on seasonal product.
C-S-what’s? Community Supported Agriculture, more commonly known as CSAs, are opportunities for local farmers to disperse their goods by selling a certain number of “shares” or boxes to the public. This practice began in France, following World War II, as larger farms started taking over smaller ones, thus driving consumers to feel they were losing touch with their community farms. The whole idea of a CSA brings the food we eat back home by allowing the consumer direct contact with their regional farmers.
How CSAs Work
A consumer (that’s you!) typically invests in a season’s worth of product upfront. The farmer then grows the product and divvies up the harvest among already allocated shareholders. (It’s worth noting that shares are limited, especially through smaller farms, so once you find your preferred program, your only route may be putting your name on a waiting list, until a share opens up.) Depending on the CSA, boxes are then delivered to homes or a regular pick-up location in your neighborhood. Again, your commitment (in quantity and frequency) can vary, but typically you receive a box of healthy goodness once a week or once a month. Some let you determine items you will receive, but most provide what’s seasonal—and sometimes, surprising! That means you can expect a lot of greens and onions at the start of the season, with more vegetable varieties and fruits near the end of summer.
Types of CSAs
Historically, these farmers’ “mystery boxes” consisted mainly of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. However, different types of CSAs are becoming more and more common, offering various goods like meat, cheese, and eggs. Some even allow you to combine items from different programs.
- Find a CSA in your area by visiting localharvest.org and clicking “Find a Local CSA.”
- Evaluate CSAs by considering pick-up location, size (full, half, or micro share) and what it includes.
- Prevent spoilage by identifying the most delicate items in the CSA box and using those items first.
- Focus on fun. Learning to use unfamiliar produce can be tricky, so it’s okay to feel frustrated or intimidated. Treat this as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen!
- Don’t be disappointed if you end up giving some of your CSA away. You can only consume so much kale before turning green! Food is the way to peoples’ hearts, so share the love.