There are as many reasons to choose a CSA as there are different farms and families that use them. Before you read about how to find a CSA, be sure to read What is a CSA?. I recommend narrowing your list down to three choices by asking yourself these questions:
Where is the CSA farm or pick up site located? One of the benefits of a CSA is the reduced carbon footprint to get the food supply to consumers. If you have to drive more than thirty minutes to get to your CSA, you might want to look more locally for your food source. Or, if your CSA comes to a place closer to your city but has to drive in for some distance to get there, this again defeats the local food philosophy.
Length of Season/Number of Pick Ups for CSA’s: Most seasons begin in May or June and run through September or October. Some farms have an optional winter delivery for an additional cost. Some farms are weekly pick-ups and some are biweekly.
Types of Produce and Other Food Items at a CSA: Most of the CSA farms offer a wide variety of seasonal vegetables. Some farms offer unusual varieties while others may add extras to their standard shares. Some farms may give members the option to buy honey, flowers, eggs, wool/yarn, meat, canned, homemade items, or other specialties at an additional cost.
Opportunities for Involvement at a CSA: Most farms encourage you to get involved on the farm and with other shareholders. Some farms plan special events and others encourage their members to just drop by. And others expect involvement in the farm as part of membership.
Once you narrow down your choices, go and visit the farms you are considering. Meet with the farmers, get to know them, ask questions, and ask for referrals. You may want to ask if their farm has a website, blog or Facebook page where they have previous seasons documented with a list of basket contents or pictures throughout the season. This is about creating a trusting relationship built on good food, good stewardship and good friendships, so don’t be shy!
Here are some questions to ask your CSA farmer:
- How many years have you been farming?
- How many seasons have you been doing a CSA?
- What vegetables do you plan to provide to shareholders?
- What is the size of a share? Do you offer half shares?
- How do you view the CSA notion of shared risk/shared bounty?
- Are farm members welcome on the farm, and what community events are held?
- Is there a farm work requirement?
It took me several months to go through this process, from the summer of 2010 until January of 2011 to be exact. So now is a great time to start this process if you have considered joining a CSA.
Resources for finding a CSA:
How many of you are considering joining a CSA for next year’s growing season?
The Simple Things series is written by April Patel, contributing writer tonaturalthrifty.com. April is a freelance writer, single mom, homeschooler and pseudo urban homesteader and she blogs at An Apple a Day Wisdom. Like her Facebook page today so you don’t miss any of her daily doses of apple!