Growing up, my mom always had a decent-sized and bountiful vegetable garden, plus raspberries and apples. As a kid, I didn’t appreciate it all that much. Now I long for the space (and skill) to grow my own food. I’ve tried herbs in pots rather unsuccessfully. I’m not sure how veggies and fruit would fare, especially on our east-facing balcony.
I honestly don’t remember when I first learned about the community-supported agriculture niche—some time when I lived in the Twin Cities. What’s this CSA business all about, you ask? Small, local farms produce small amounts of crops, livestock, and other goods, usually using sustainable, natural, and/or organic farming practices. People commit to be supporters of the farm (members), putting down a set amount of money at the beginning of the season in exchange for their share of the bounty. Each week during the harvest season (usually 16-20 weeks), you get a box/basket/bag of fresh produce.
A few pros of the CSA model:
- Receive fresh and seasonal produce and products, often organic/natural/sustainably grown
- Reduce your carbon footprint by dealing directly with local farmer rather than getting food from across the world (you’re also bypassing big food companies, grocery stores)
- Support local farm businesses (this model is good for farmers because they have a steady commitment of buyers regardless of harvest outcome; this means some risk for members that certain crops will do poorly, but also much reward if a bountiful harvest)
- Get to know the people who grow your food personally, and even visit the farm it comes from (especially great learning opportunity for kids)
- Exposure to new food you might not otherwise eat
For the last couple years, I’ve poked around online to learn more and have toyed around with the idea of signing up. But it didn’t make much sense as a single person who was always on the run. This year, the stars aligned, and I got my wish. The Mister and I signed up for a 1/2 share of a CSA ($400 for 20 weeks, which if you do the math is a very reasonable price for a week’s worth of produce).
On Saturday night, we got the first opportunity to meet our new CSA extended family. The Farm Stuff hosted a “Chat and Chew” on the farm. We stepped out of the car and were greeted by a large turkey wandering about. We instantly fell in love with our farm.
We met the mother and daughter who run this little farm in the hills of southeast Pennsylvania. They welcomed us (and 40 others) into their home like we were family. We spent the evening wandering the farm, chatting with other shareholders, and eating lots of great homemade food. And all we heard were great stories about how Mandy and Tara are so generous with their produce and welcoming all season long (we can pretty much visit the farm any time we want and they’ll continue to have parties throughout the year, including an early summer pig roast and a harvest feast). The Mister and I are already anxious to start getting our fruit, veggies, eggs, and herbs in our weekly box, as well as free-range/grass fed meat (this isn’t included in the CSA price, but we get a 20% discount for being members).
Here are a few more shots from the farm, including two-week old colt and piglets (born the same day).
And don’t forget to find a CSA near you.