CSA Farmshares: Could One Be Right For You?
Since the pandemic began, many food items have become harder to source on a reliable basis. Massive food shortages have been predicted for the future. Now is the time to find multiple reliable sources of food. To make that happen, I’m upping the size of my garden AND buying from a reputable local CSA farm.
Have you heard of CSA or considered joining one as part of your preparedness plan? Investing in a local CSA may be the missing piece of your preparedness puzzle. Let’s find out why!
What Is A CSA and How Does It Work?
CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. Sometimes referred to as a “farmshare,” a CSA is an agreement with a local farm or farmer to purchase a portion of their harvest in advance. Customers pay a fee, usually upfront, and then receive a weekly allotment of the fruits and vegetables that the farm produces during the growing season. The upfront payments allow the farmer to have money to use for the expensive planting season, and customers know that they will have a constant supply of fresh food throughout the summer and fall months.
Depending on the individual plans your farm offers, your items may be delivered to your home, to a central pick-up location in your neighborhood, or picked up directly from the farm. While I did use the delivery method during the pandemic, I find that I really enjoy going to the farm each week to select my items myself. At the farm I currently have a CSA Share with, customers who pick up on-site are also invited to pick fresh items from the designated Pick Your Own (PYO) fields. Each week they tell us what bonus items are ready to be harvested and how much each member can have. Items include a large variety of things like herbs, peas, beans, tomatoes, and peppers.
Many farms offer different CSA tiers to fit any budget. Some offer small, medium, and large shares, while others may offer weekly or bi-weekly pick-ups. This year, we are splitting ours with a neighbor and will each pick our items up on alternating weeks. If you would like to find one near you, you can do so here.
Benefits of Joining a CSA
Besides the advantage of having another food source beyond the supermarket, a CSA is a wonderful prep for many other reasons.
A majority of the farms that are involved in community agriculture are also organic. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the foods you are consuming were grown locally by a farmer that you have met, using no chemicals or insecticides. Nutritious food will be more critical than ever as things continue to slide downhill.
One of the most interesting things about purchasing a farm share is that we have the opportunity to try new vegetables that aren’t normally on our radar. In a weekly email, our farm tells us what items will be available and provides one or two recipes for each fruit or veggie. If it’s something we haven’t tried before, we make sure we give it a go. If it’s something no one enjoys, it will usually end up in the dehydrator to later be ground down into a green powder for supplementing soups and stews.
No Just-In-Time Delivery Worries
Your local supermarket may carry a wide variety of items, but they actually have very few of each thing. They rely on frequent deliveries to keep their shelves full. If the delivery truck does not arrive, there is no food to sell. With a CSA, you know exactly where your food is today, where it will be tomorrow, and where it will be the day after that!
Many times, a group of local farmers and food producers will band together to offer their items to a larger audience. Both farms that I have used for farm shares also offer goods from other areas. We have the option to purchase additional weekly or biweekly shares of mushrooms, cheeses, eggs, and meats. If your area is in danger of being short of a particular product, or you are looking to source other items locally, this may be an excellent way to find and purchase those things now, before you have no steady access to them.
I have a decently sized garden in my backyard, and I enjoy trying to grow as much as I can. When we get a veggie we really enjoy from the farm, I always try to save the seeds to plant the following year. Our farm also has a PYO flower field where they allow you to cut a dozen stems each week. The overall season lasted about a month longer than the fresh flowers did in the fields, but each week I still walked over and clipped my dozen stems. The flowers had long since died, but I got hundreds and hundreds of seeds to plant in my own yard this year using this method!
The one major drawback to purchasing a CSA farm share is the chance of a terrible growing season. When the season goes well, all members share in the bounty, and their bellies stay full. If there is a terrible drought, insect plague, or another farm disaster, your payments are not refunded. This is because the farm will have put in the same amount of work as they do in a bountiful year. My personal theory is that if my farmer is having a bad year, chances are good that my home garden will be doing even worse. If that happens, I’ll be glad for any part of the professional harvest I can get my hands on!
Overall, we have been members of a CSA for over ten years now, and I love it. About three years ago, we did make a switch of which farm we use, but that was mainly because the new place offered the Pick-Your-Own fields and grew more common fruits and vegetables than our previous farm did. I’m looking forward to when this year’s membership begins and will be glad to have all of those fresh, nutritious items to fall back on if our food crisis worsens.
Have you participated in a CSA before? What did you love or hate about it? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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