After years of promoting Community Supported Agriculture, I finally broke down and joined a CSA program at one of the local organic farms. What a great decision it was, too!
Back in February we signed up for a “small” farm share at Cropthorne Farm on Westham Island here in Ladner. For an upfront investment of about $350, we get a box of freshly harvested, certified organic vegetables every week. This particular farm’s CSA program is now full, and we got a small discount for registering early in the season. Every Tuesday, we drive out to the farm and pick up our box, and drop off the empty box from the previous week. It’s very simple and straightforward.
Each farm will have different rules to their program, but I think Cropthorne is a fairly typical case. For months now, my household has been anticipating the fresh harvest, and desperately curious about “What’s in the Box?” We selected a “small” box, but there are medium and large boxes available for a slightly larger investment. The contents of the weekly box changes as the season progresses, but it’s always fresh and each item is at the peak of its harvest time. If there’s a component we don’t care for, they have graciously supplied a “trade-in” box of optional vegetables. And the program runs into October. Think about it:
- The farm gets money up front, before the season begins.
- If a particular crop fails, the farmer shares the risk with the customers, so no one loses.
- The produce is harvested just hours earlier, so it is at peak freshness.
- We can go and look at the fields and greenhouses (with permission, of course) where the crops are grown.
- We can engage with the farmer herself, and ask questions about cultivation, varieties, etc…
- We get to support a small, local, certified organic farm.
- We pick up the box at the farm stand, so there are lots of other crops available – even fresh eggs – for a little extra money.
- We get to eat all these fresh veggies without any of the back breaking work!
- We aren’t paying anonymous conventional farmers to sell through a major chain, and the crops are not driven in refrigerated trucks from California or Mexico.
- And, and, and….
I’ve thought about this over and over, and can’t see a down side. We have been converted to the wisdom of Community Supported Agriculture, and will be participating for years to come. Why not sign up with a local farm – or check if they deliver CSA boxes to farm markets near you? Why not sign get together with your coworkers or classmates, and share the cost as well as the rewards?
And you won’t be overwhelmed. Our first farm box contains garlic scapes, Mokum carrots, Chieftain potatoes, rainbow chard, a huge Lovelock lettuce, and a cucumber variety called Tyria. Everything is perfect with no blemishes or bugs. We are a couple of two, so this is going to suffice for most of the week ahead. We’ve found it really engaging to plan around the contents of the box, but nothing will be wasted. On the first night we used the chard to make Beet & Kohlrabi Salad.
— Mark @ West Coast Seeds