The Tragic Optimist

20 years of the CSA

I’ve only lived in Minnesota for 12 years (16 if you count the 4 years of college) – hang on, 12, really?  Can I be that old.  Wow.  Ok, moving on – and I’ve only been involved with a CSA for 2 of those years – going on our third – so I was surprised to read on local food blog, Heavy Table, that the CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in the Twin Cities.

CSA, or farm shares (I think they refer to the same thing, I’ve always heard the terms used interchangeably, but someone tell me if I’m wrong here), refers to a way for farmers to remove some of the year-to-year risk of farming.  Basically, a family or person purchases a “share” of a farm’s produce, and then every week throughout the summer months (apparently there exist places where this happens year round, but I’m not sure I believe in such places without winter) the person receives a share of the harvest – usally a box just full of random fruits and vegetables, which is all kinds of awesome.  Usually the farms are small, family-owned farms that practice organic, sustainable farming practices, unfortunately their small size makes them more vulnerable to bad harvests that can and do happen, so the consumer shares in the risk by committing to pay for the season and providing financial security for the farmers.  But usually, the amount of food you receive in the share is quite generous, and in our experience has not cost any more than buying vegetables of similar quality at a grocery store or farmer’s market.  Plus, you’re given much more incentive to cook creatively and eat your vegetables, since you know another delivery is coming the next week.  It also offers those of us that live away from farms a glimpse at the seasonality of farming.  It’s so easy in this global economy to forget that produce has seasons (though if you’ve ever eaten off-season tomatoes, you get a pretty sharp reminder).  Some farms also have work days and celebrations on their farms, giving their customers a chance to re-connect with the land that provides for them.

So, happy 20 years of gloriously ripe tomatoes, fantastically fresh corn, amazingly flavorful carrots, pesticide-free salad greens, and more cabbage than we could ever hope to eat.  If you’re interested in finding a CSA near you, Localharvest.org is a great place to start!

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4 Comments

  1. Yay! We’ve been participating in different CSA’s for the last 4 years and have loved every minute of it. Usually we’d get a list of a few recipes included with our produce and that helped us learn how to cook things like fava beans, mustard greens and celery root – things we wouldn’t otherwise have discovered on our own. Since then, we’ve become far more adventurous with the kinds of vegetables we eat and I’m so grateful for that experience. Oh, and I’d second the opinion that it hasn’t cost us any more than we would otherwise pay for our produce – plus it’s almost all organic and it’s local.

    Thanks for sharing the localharvest link, I’m looking forward to checking it out. And I agree – looks more and more like we’d get along fabulously!

  2. Yes yes yes! We love our farm share! Ours doesn’t do box deliveries; rather we go once and pick up our share. This encourages a nice atmosphere: people bring their kids and hang out to chat with each other a bit; we get to pick what we want within certain categories (like, we can choose two bags of greens, from the 10 kinds on the table); we can take some time outside to pick flowers or beans or tomatoes or berries fresh. Yum. I think ours actually costs a good bit less than buying the same kinds of produce at, say, Whole Foods.

  3. Gus

    Mary and I are debating joining a CSA here in Indy this summer. We’re trying to figure out how it would balance budget wise with our desire to still make weekly trips to the neighborhood Farmer’s Market. Of course, for me the biggest selling point of our CSA is fresh eggs each week!

  4. Haddayr

    Hi! Just saw you a few hours ago at Naomi’s party.

    Did you know about the new blog fairfoodfight.com? They welcome new bloggers (my friend runs it) and an article like this would be perfect for it.

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