Not familiar with CSA? Don’t worry. Neither was I and this will be my first year participating in “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA).
Com·mu·ni·ty-sup·port·ed ag·ri·cul·ture noun :a system in which a farm operation is supported by shareholders within the community who share both the benefits and risks of food production.
What is CSA?
Practically speaking, each week I will pick up home grown produce at a community centre in my quadrant of the city. There, I will be provided with whatever supply of vegetables are in season by a local farm. I have selected “Noble Gardens” as my farm of choice who will distribute an assortment of 6-8 veggies per week.
In some parts of the world, harvest season may provide an abundant variety of produce and a long growing season. But let’s get real here, when you’re a city kid from Alberta, farm fresh anything is thrilling. I’ll take what I can get with a 16-week harvest season starting mid-June, assuming it isn’t still snowing at that time…
Why Noble Gardens?
It took me a little while to figure out which farm to link up with. I’ll be honest, this was actually as stressful as voting for me as there are certain similarities among the growers. Here is why I chose Noble:
- All veggies are chemical-free and non-GMO
- Use of untreated seed
- Control bugs with biological controls that do not harm the environment/crops
- Good variety
- Brown, free run eggs (they are no longer selling shares this year, but they will have “extras” to sell at my pick up date!)
- Option for BC fruit share at same location (I adore BC fruit and I am already hoping for fresh peaches!)
- Accessibility – I had such a nice conversation with Brenda Vrieselaar that I felt an immediate connection to her and felt like she deserved “my vote”
- Customizable programs for dietary restrictions. Many CSA’s don’t accommodate preferences or allergies. With a legume allergy in our home, mass quantities of peas just simply aren’t desirable!
We are purchasing a half-share of veggies at $350 for a half share (which feeds 2-3 people) and a half share of fruit from Oliver, B.C. at $240, totalling = $590. To break this down for you, we will be paying ~$36.88 per week on fresh produce. For the amount of fruit and veggies we eat, this is a steal of a deal.
(Note: I hope to buy a dozen eggs at $5 per week depending on how much supply they have, but as I am not sure if this will be possible every week, I did not include this in my calculation. The egg share sold out before I could buy one! I will know better for next year!)
What are the benefits?
- Sustainable and in-season ingredients
- Connects consumers with local growers
- Community: sense of social responsibility, stewardship and people-to-people relationship
- Increases understanding of how, where, what and by whom food is grown (not just purchased!)
- Putting money back into local economy
- Opportunity to learn about new fruits and vegetables
- Local eating
- In my case, I will be forced to cook as not to waste any produce (I hate waste!)
- AMAZINGLY FRESH, SEASONAL FRUITS AND VEGGIES!!!!
What are the risks?
Yes, there are risks. But that is what differentiates a community vs. an estranged supermarket. We share the burden. “Sharers” help make small, local farming a sustainable option. There are no guarantees in the amount or type of produce, also the possibility of drought, flooding and insects – life has no guarantees!
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a CSA:
- What are their farming practices? Organic? Non-GMO? Rotations?
- What type of veggie and fruit assortment do you prefer? Would you rather customize?
- Do they sell additional farm products like eggs, meat, milk or fruit? (I have not yet seen milk and few offering egg shares. I have found some offering meat, but I found the overall cost of certain farms who provide meat too expensive. I will have to look elsewhere.)
- Are there opportunities to visit the farm, “U-Pick”, or volunteer?
- Do they have a family to support?
- Are their prices reasonable and sustainable?
- Do they have a drop off location near where you live?
Where can I get more information?