Autumn has almost passed us by, here in Upstate, South Carolina. That means many fruits and vegetables stopped producing and local farmers are moving to their winter crops. However, you – the consumer- can still support your local farmers and obtain good, healthy food through CSA’s or Community Supported Agriculture programs.
What are CSA’s?
These are partnerships between local consumers and their local farmers.
Consumers pay a fee ahead of a growing season, as an investment into the farm. Each week during a growing season, the customer receives a box or a bag of what crops were harvested that week. Crop production can be unpredictable, therefore, customers are not always sure exactly what fruits or vegetables they will receive.
Advantages of participating in a CSA:
You can experiment with cooking different products you may not be accustom
Expand your culinary repertoire
Produce is usually cheaper than the same amount at “retail value.”
Can purchase organic product
Honey Brook Farms
In Pennington, New Jersey, Honey Brook Farms allows their CSA participants to pay their fee, but at harvest time, each week, customer’s bring their box and pick out what they want.
Instead of prices like a retail farmers market, they have signs for the different share member plans. Membership levels determine the quantity of what you take.
Advantage: no wasted product. Members only pay for what they need.
Riverview Farms in north Georgia is one of the few pure “certified organic CSA’s” in the country.
West Swancy owns the small, self-sustaining farm in Ranger, Georgia; selling produce, heritage breed pork, grass-fed beef, and grains.
With several Eco-friendly practices such as: cover cropping, crop diversity, composting, and rotational grazing through pasture and forest, West Swancy has been able to provide healthy food for his CSA members.
Riverview Farms markets their CSA program early in the season. This allows West to stay on the farm more, as oppose to going to the farmers market each week to sell his harvest AND he can plan in advance the quantities he needs to feed his many customers without overworking his land.
In Bedford Hills, New York, sits Rainbeau Ridge started in 2002 by Lisa and Mark Schwartz. A small scale family farm providing eggs, produce and cheese to their CAP (Consumer Agriculture Partnership) members.
Members pay into what works like a “buyers club.”
Members have first access to a variety of products and the Schwartz’s can cater the farm to their members needs.
As Lisa explains, “members can buy what they want, when they want it.” They are “sharing their bounty with the community.” In exchange, members pay an annual membership fee which sustains the farm.
In any community supported agriculture program, the farmer and the consumer are at the mercy of mother nature. However, as a community they have a shared risk.
Farmers are gratified knowing they are providing healthy food within their community, while working at their passion, farming.
CSA members obtain nutritious, organic products, while supporting their local farmer and maintaining a connection with the farmer.
CSA Fall & Winter Crops
Consider participating in a local CSA. They are usually less expensive than you think and if you find a “pick your own” program, it could be a recreational opportunity for your family and show your children where their food really comes from.