Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About CSAs
What are the benefits to you, as a consumer, to join a CSA program? What are the benefits for the farmer? What is a CSA program?
Do you want to be able to enjoy fresh local produce all year long? Have you ever considered joining a CSA program? Do you know what a CSA program is? I wasn’t fully aware of what they were and how many were actually available in our region until I started working on this article and talking to some of our local farmers who run them.
So what is a CSA? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a program run by many local farmers. They connect you, the consumer, directly to your food source, the farmer. We are so fortunate to live in an area that is abundant with sustainable local agriculture. Many of these produce farmers run CSA programs right from their farm and offer deliveries to your home. Each farmer runs their own CSA program so boxes and availability will change depending on the farm you are dealing with.
I talked to one of our farmer partners, Dale Stevanus of Stevanus Family Farm. Dale and his wife Linda run a CSA program on their farm in Bloomingdale. Dale and Linda survey their customers every 2-3 years. Here are some questions I asked Dale and some answers that they have received from these surveys.
What are the benefits to the consumer of joining a CSA program?
- Fresh produce – days not weeks old
- Fresh produce shows up right at their door
- It’s like Christmas on a weekly basis. They are not sure what all will be in their boxes until it shows up at their door
- Get to know your farmer – see them every week on delivery day and there is a chance to come out to the farm every day for an open house
- Learn about new vegetables they may never have heard of or used before
- Recipes and fun facts are provided in a newsletter – makes it fun for the consumer
What are the benefits to the farmer of offering CSA programs?
- Reduced financial risks; CSAs are usually paid in full prior to the start of the season. This is when money is needed to pay for inputs of the operation
- Ability to educate consumers about farming activities and other issues such as climate change. For instance, what happens to vegetables when you have too much heat (drought, low yields) or too much rain (diseases)
- Knowing your customers and building those relationships helps promote things like sustainability, good farming practices, proactive approaches to crop productions.
What is offered in your boxes? Do you offer different size boxes?
- This year we are offering 27 different types of vegetables, 3 types of fruits, 8 types of herbs and raw honey. All of this is grown on our farm.
- There are 3 different CSA boxes available. Small – ½ bushel, Medium – 1 bushel, Large – 2 bushels. All of the boxes are delivered weekly.
What times of year are your CSA boxes available for consumers?
- We have 2 different seasons for our CSA boxes. Summer CSA program runs from early July to mid October. Our fall CSA program runs from mid November to February. The fall CSA is delivered once a month.
How does a consumer join your CSA program?
- Most consumers join via our website. Most hear about it through the Foodlink map or by word of mouth. Registration is from mid March to May for the summer CSA and October to November for the late fall/winter CSA program.
Overall CSA programs are beneficial for both the farmer and consumer. Check out your local farms for these programs and support your local family farm. Check out our website for some options for CSA programs.