CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a way for farmers to get enough money together to pay the upfront costs of planting and to share in the risks of farming with the community. The idea is that you buy a season’s share up front. Then every week during the farming season you get a box filled with fresh produce from the farm.
CSA’s vary a lot in cost and production. Some of the most convenient are highly production oriented. The produce is washed and prepped as though it was going to a coop. The boxes are consistent in their volume and the farm often includes a newsletter with ideas for using the crop. Some of the most fun are smaller farms just getting started with CSA. The produce comes straight from the field and needs cleaning up. The farms are often experimenting with crops so the variety and volume can be limited or overwhelming. The farms often include an offer to shareholders to come out and help with harvesting and packing the CSA boxes.
This year I have neither my own garden or a CSA. I didn’t think I could justify all that produce (even a half share) for just me. I also didn’t think (and I was definitely right about this) that I could manage a garden on my own this year. I really miss it. I miss opening the boxes and planning my meals around “this week’s harvest.” I miss the connection to the actual growing season, even the oddities of weather and pests.
It doesn’t help that my local farmers market closed. Not the big ones, there are plenty in the area. But one of my neighbors families had a farm and they would bring in produce and sell it down the block. They sold plants in the spring and produce through the summer. They are delightful people and did a really nice job with every day vegetables like beans and tomatoes and zucchini. Their corn on the cob was a treat I looked forward to every year. But we all age and they decided to retire and sell the farm.
Change is part of life and there are some things that require simple acceptance. This is one of them for me. It’s time to start really making an effort to get to the local farmers markets on the days they are open. It’s a summer for more visits to the coop. It’s the season for vegetables and I need to make sure I have them in the house since they’re not out in the yard.
It’s also time for me to start thinking about next year. I may just buy another CSA anyway. I can always invite people over for dinner. I could even learn to can! I know I’m spoiled, but I like my produce close at hand. I like having vegetables that are fresh and local and lovingly grown. I like trying new things and reading recipe ideas.
Sometimes the established CSA’s will start selling shares in the fall for next year. It never hurts to take a look at what’s available. Maybe you might try a CSA too. It’s a great way for urbanites to make a connection to the cycles of the growing season.