This year, Trevor and I bit the bullet and bought a CSA membership.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Community members purchase a “share” of crops up front from a local farmer before the season begins. The farmer rewards CSA members with fresh, local, and delicious food every week. We purchased a “farm + forage” CSA, which means every week May-October we’ll get a box chock full of produce grown on the farm, as well as food foraged in the Maine wilderness, such as mushrooms, fiddle heads, blueberries, and spinach!
CSAs are an incredible way to support your local farmer, your community, AND guarantee you’ll have tons of fresh fruits and vegetables in your home at all times (check out our Farm to Table Recipes). It’s a win win. The only thing that stood in our way in the past was the cost, which can range anywhere from $300-$800, depending on the farm, what food they include, the length of their season, the size of your share, etc.
We purchased a pricier CSA because we wanted a larger box every week (70% of what we eat is fruits and vegetables), and because we were excited about the forage option. When we did the math, we realized we couldn’t afford not to do it. Every time we go to a Farmer’s market, we usually spend $100. This CSA will only cost us $30/week.
On small farms, the annual harvest really depends on how well the farmer is able to prepare pre-season, as well as weather condition. The up front CSA cost is an investment into the farm- it helps them purchase necessary equipment, like seeds and new tools. You’re also sharing in the risk of the harvest- poor weather conditions might mean a lesser yield…on the other hand, a better season means more food. Overall though, farmers always heavily reward their CSA members, because they’re voting with their dollars for local, sustainable food.
In addition to the best quality food your money can buy, you receive a discount on the harvest (you’d spend a lot more for the same food if you purchased it at farmers markets), and are usually invited to stop by the farm for local demonstrations any time you want.
There’s still time to invest in a CSA this year- I highly encourage you to do your research and support a farm you connect with on a personal level. You are what you eat- you might as well like the farmers who grow your food! For more information about local CSAs, visit the Maine CSA Directory.