OUR CSA: What’s in an Acroynm?
Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.
While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.
Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at the time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. They are re-paid during the months we as farmers have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower. If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.
On the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time, and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.
The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while other offer far more limited offerings designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.
At OUR Ecovillage, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.
To learn more or sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our CSA page.