Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Learn more about CSA

Have you ever wondered what's so special about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that you should sign up before the season even starts? Or why you should pay before you get your vegetables instead of just buying straight them from the market table?

They're valid questions. Money is tight for many of us these days and we're forced to make tough decisions about how to spend it. I urge you to keep an open mind about CSA as you read on, and consider that it is not only cheaper, but it goes a long way in making sure your food source is secure for years to come.

How does CSA keep my food source secure?

Diversified vegetable farms use CSA as a way to gauge how the market will support their farming efforts. They experience different costs than the larger agribusinesses that are able to supply supermarket shelves – for example, smaller fields and yields but fewer packaging and transportation expenses. However since these small family farms aren’t mass-producers, they rely heavily on the support of their communities. When they sell locally, they’re able to harvest produce within a day or two of market and offer the freshest food possible; vegetables in the supermarket are often picked under-ripe or are engineered to have a long shelf life, and harvested weeks before customers purchase them. Plus, lots of energy goes into trucking them around the country (and the world) and maintaining temperature, humidity, and storage facilities that prevent them from turning quickly.

The more community support that small, local diversified vegetable farms receive, the more viable their livelihood and the longer they’ll be able to continue farming sustainably and offering healthy, fresh food. CSA connects you with this high-quality produce and the people who grow it. So not only do you know who your farmer is, but your farmer knows who you are. When you make a connection with a farmer through CSA, you become more than just a farmers' market customer; you have invested in their business and are demonstrating a commitment to their land and their values. You may be invited to visit their fields or meet their kids, they may ask which vegetables you want them to grow or you may inquire about their top 10 ways to cook a turnip. They will look for you every week.

Why pay for CSA in advance?

If you register before the season begins, your contribution will help the farmer with pre-season expenses like buying seeds and soil amendments, repairing field equipment, and supporting their time as they prepare the fields, start the greenhouse, and begin planting. Committing in advance also helps farmers make crop plans to accurately estimate what and how much to grow based on how many people register for the season.

One of the many benefits to paying in advance is a discounted rate – CSA shares are packaged with wholesale prices in mind, which means your bunch of carrots may be valued at $2 in a CSA share but $2.50 or even $3 on a market table. If you plan on buying a lot of produce this year, the CSA model will save you a significant amount of money (plus it’ll introduce you to new vegetables!)

Why choose Fresh Start Farms' CSA?
Fresh Start Farms is about more than just vegetables – it’s part of a story that’s both local and global, about struggle and resilience, tipping the scale toward the socially disadvantaged in our society, about working hard through resettlement into self-sufficiency; it’s about the right to grow food, transferring skills from fields across the world, creating opportunities for small businesses; it’s about promoting jobs that are consistent with cultural lifestyles and aspirations, and recognizing the similarities between people from all parts of the world.

By choosing Fresh Start Farms, you are supporting immigrants and refugees as they become independent farm business owners. You are welcomed into the lives of people you may have never met, you can try ethnic foods and learn new recipes, and become part of a larger community. Click here for more information about our CSA program and to sign up for 2012.