CSA, or community supported agriculture, is a buzzword we're hearing a lot these days. It's frequently offered up as a solution to many of the problems with our nation's food system: produce that travels hundreds or thousands of miles before it reaches the consumer, food that's grown with pesticides, herbicides, or hormones, food that's genetically modified, environmentally destructive growing practices, etc. Community supported agriculture is an agricultural model in which the farmer and consumer share in the risks and bounty of the farm. In practical terms, this means that you pay a set amount up front, and that helps the farmer cover the cost of production. In return, you receive freshly harvested shares of the farm's produce (usually once a week) throughout the growing season. Some CSAs have farm pickups, some deliver directly to your door, and some have in-town pickup points. Most CSAs are smaller farms that cultivate a variety crops, and use organic growing practices.
CSAs are a wonderful way to satisfy your desire for fresh, organic, locally grown produce, and a great way to support your local farmers. It's also a great way to eat seasonally, and try out new foods and recipes. There are some challenges, however, that go along with being a part of a farm community. Weather, pests, and other factors outside the farmer's control can mean lower yields or damaged crops, and that means a lighter share for the consumer. Not being able to predict quantities or varieties means that you might end up with a lot of something that you're not sure how to use, or don't like.
This video, which features Gary Brever of Ploughshare Farm, Kate Stout of North Creek Community Farm, and Margaret Marshall of Featherstone Farm, does a great job of summarizing what you can expect as a member of a CSA:
You can also check out this post, which features an interview with Faatma Mehrmanesh, the Operation Coordinator at DUG's DeLaney Community Farm. DeLaney Community Farm is Denver Urban Gardens' community supported agriculture project in Aurora. DeLaney is different than other CSAs in that its operations are centered around a mission which includes providing healthy, locally produced food for people of all economic levels, including helping challenged populations improve their nutrition and their access to healthy food.
DeLaney's Community Partner Share program provides fresh, organic produce to partner nonprofits like Project Angel Heart and The Gathering Place, and DeLaney's WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program allows WIC clients to work with staff for an hour in exchange for a freshly harvested share of produce. To keep costs low, DeLaney operates with a small staff, and relies on volunteers to assist in the day-to-day operations. To learn more about DeLaney Community Farm, please click here. To make a secure, online donation to the DeLaney Community Farm Partner Share Fund, please click here.