For 25 years CSAs have given consumers the opportunity to purchase local, seasonal produce, meat and eggs directly from farmers through buying shares at the beginning of the season. This risk-sharing model funds farming ventures while giving members access to American favorites like tomatoes, green beans, and strawberries as well as vegetables not normally found on supermarket shelves like tatsoi and kohlrabi. Spring is the perfect time to join a CSA. Many begin in mid-May or early June, but shares are usually still available, and may come at a reduced price, if you join a week or two into the season. Many CSAs offer multiple options to pay for your share, which makes it an affordable choice for most family budgets. Below are ten tips for finding, joining and getting the most out of a CSA.
1 Shop Around!
courtesy of Caramont Farm
CSA shares come in many shapes and sizes, so shop around to find one that best matches your needs and resources. Ask families in your community if they are CSA members or visit a CSA directory like .buylocalvirginia.org online. Most CSAs begin offering memberships in the winter and you can often get a deal if you sign up early.
2 Location of Farm & Pick-up CSA farms are all over the place, and itâ€™s likely you won't have trouble finding one. Pick-up options vary by farm and may include pick-up at the farm, Farmers Markets or other locations throughout the community. Think about how far you would be willing to travel on a weekly basis to get your produce and what pick-up option would be most convenient and enjoyable for you. If you can get a group of friends and family together, you may even be able to designate a drop off location at your house.
3 Pick-up Day & Time Choosing a farm with a convenient pick-up day and time will have a big impact on your experience throughout the CSA season. Do you like to run errands on your way home from work, or on the weekend? Think about your current grocery shopping routine and how picking up your CSA can fit into and enrich the experience.
4 Size, Season Duration & Price Some CSA farms offer full, half, and single shares to accommodate different size households. Your family size and inclination towards vegetables will help determine what weekly amount of produce would meet your needs without excess waste. The length of the season and number of deliveries varies among farms. Most begin in mid-May to early June and end anywhere from October to the end of November. A limited number of farms also offer winter CSAâ€™s. Prices vary with size, season length and other value-added options.
5 Produce Selection & Other Items CSA farms offer a wide variety of seasonal produce and many provide harvest calendars so you can see what they