Please welcome Lina from Butterpies to the Booth for today's guest post!
March is here! That means that spring is finally coming (yay!) but it also means that now is the time to find and sign up for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
There are plenty of definitions out there of what a CSA is but I'll take my crack at it too. A CSA is basically a group of people, usually organized by a farmer, that pay that farmer a lump sum in early spring and then get a weekly share for the entire summer of the farm's bounty. Usually, the farm shares are delivered to a central convenient location or are also available for pickup on the farm. Its a nice partnership because the farmer gets a guaranteed income in the spring and knows how much he can invest in growing things for that year, and the consumer gets fresh, local, in-season veggies every week grown by someone they actually know, on a farm that they can actually visit. We would sign up for one again this year, but we've taken a bit more extreme route and moved to a farm ourselves where we are now planning to grow our own food. If only this snow would melt so we could start digging!
CSAs are gaining popularity, which is great for everyone involved. I can only speak to my experience in Washington, DC but I think most of the points will apply in other places. The biggest reason I'm writing now is that CSAs fill up fast, especially the established ones that your friends will tell you they like. So if you've been thinking about it, now's the time to pull the trigger or you might miss out. If you're looking for a CSA, Local Harvest has a great directory and Eat Wild is another good source to find farms near you. There are lots of different kinds of CSAs springing up now, even though a fruit and vegetable CSA is the most common. The ones I drool over in particular (but live too far from) are a grain CSA and a fiber CSA.
The price tag can seem hefty at first, and it is. Our favorite CSA was around $700, which is a lot to cough up all at once. One the other hand, we didn't buy any other veggies from the middle of May through early November, which in our case, worked out to about $30 per week. Many CSAs will work with you too for installment payments or another option is to split a share with another family. Despite the seemingly expensive upfront payment, we decided that this is exactly what we wanted to spend our money on - fresh veggies for our family, supporting a local farmer and family business, and not spending those same dollars buying "organic" produce from huge multi-national conglomerates. I like to think of our buying as voting with our dollars, and I'd much rather vote for the family farm.
It's really nice to know the people who grow my food, especially with all the recalls and food scares that seem omnipresent these days. It’s not always “organic” (as standardized by the USDA) but the point for me is that I know the Jug Bay Farm is not spraying chemicals and is doing everything possible to make sure the food they grow is healthy. I’ve met the chickens who lay the eggs we eat and I can vouch that they actually are free-range and they’re definitely happy. Expensive? Sure, but so worth it.