Good food locally – CSA’s

Tuesday, 7. December 2010

Evansville Produce (Flickr / JaseMan)

Or in long.. Community Supported Agriculture.  This is one of those oddball topics that fits into my “What interests me” categories on this blog, so bear with me here.  It fits neatly into my “gaming as entertaining niche” however, since it’s hard to entertain with crappy food.  If you’re aware of what I’m talking about - great.  If not and you enjoy cooking, supporting local businesses and/or fresh organic food for a good to low rate then keep reading.

The entire organic eating movement developed because people are/were sick of eating pesticides, GMO food and generally unhealthy food that was mass produced and outsourced from halfway across the planet.  Some food we need to get that way.. but obviously not all of it.  The USA is geographically diverse enough to produce pretty much anything you can think of with a few exceptions.  As everyone knows though.. “Organic” food is boutique and mostly freakin expensive as a result.

Alongside this, the locavore movement was getting established at the same time.  If you are too lazy to click, it basically means eating locally.. foods that are in-season.  They taste way better and if you pick them up from a smaller producer..  are mostly organic and potentially very cheap.  Farmers markets are a good example of this, and forutuately the number of them have exploded in the last 10 years.

Now, CSA’s are essentially eating local food, mostly organically produced with a bit of a twist on it however.  The food is paid for in advance, as a “share” of the crop - for a season. For those of you unfamiliar with farming… farmers get screwed particularly in 2 situations.  When there is a poor harvest (there isn’t enough food to sell even though the prices are high are a result) and when there is a great harvest (prices plummet even though there is a lot to sell.)  So, by getting a fixed price at the beginning of the year the farmer is assured and income… regardless of the harvest.  If they want to keep their shareholders happy, they will of course do their best to ensure the best harvest possible. 

Anycase, your next thoughts are probably “Why now, it’s winter and nothing grows in winter.”  You are of course right, however the shares for these have to be purchased in advance, so now is a good time to start looking.  Shares vary from CSA to CSA to the number of available, but most have half shares available if you don’t cook as much or happen to be flying solo.  There are also working and non-working shares depending on the CSA… working shares involve you getting your hands dirty from time to time with weeding, planting, harvesting and the like.  The costs for such case are typically lower and it is a great way to get local expert advice and experience on local growing and gardening if such things interest you.

With a share purchased, you will typically get food weekly throughout the growing season.  This is either picked up from the farm itself or a local distribution point in the city if the farm has enough shareholders.  Anything that can be locally grown is in the harvest.. and if your CSA doesn’t offer a given item.. say milk, eggs, honey or some of the more esoteric food.. they often partner up with another CSA that does giving you some of the best in local fresh food.

Now.. last question is probably “Great, but how do I find one?”   There is a site for that as well.. Local Harvest.  Assuming you’re not living someplace really arid, you probably have a lot more of these around you than might imagine… Like any other business not all of these are created equal, but they are definitely worth investigating if you’re into fresh and/or local food.  It’s also a good opportunity to build community.. and actually meet the person that provides your food which is pretty great in the era of big box anonymity.

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4 Responses to “Good food locally – CSA’s”

  1. christian Says:

    Hey Grey,

    My wife is a chef, so we are very much interested in all aspects of food production and consumption. One of our fondest dreams is to finally have a yard big enough to accommodate a large garden.


  2. Grey Says:

    Hi Christan,

    Good to see you here. I’m not sure that the CSA models make sense for everyone (I travel around 40-50% of the time for instance,) but its another good option worth considering that actually supports local buisness. If you can dehydrate and store some stuff then it’s even better of course.

    Good luck on tracking down a place with a yard, I’m hoping to be doing the same within the next year here with any luck.

  3. ze bulette Says:

    My wife and I’ve been really happy with our CSA. She actually takes a picture of each week’s share. It’s the best way of supporting local farmers we’ve found so far – better (and more convenient for us) than even than the Saturday farmer’s market here.

  4. Grey Says:

    Thanks for commenting ZB,

    Do you have any of them you could post just as idea of the sort of spread folks might be looking at?

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