Ask HE: Your CSA Questions, Answered by Dana Angelo White in Ask the Experts, Farmers' Market Finds, March 21, 2011
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Local farms across the country are gearing up for another harvest season, and we can’t wait! You can get your own little piece of a local farm by signing up for a community-supported agriculture program. So, is it the right choice for you? We’re breaking down some frequently-asked CSA questions to help you decide.
Q: I’ve heard a lot about local CSAs and want to join one. What do I need to know before signing up?
A: There’s a lot more to joining a CSA than meets the eye. You’re actually buying into a local farm for the season. We’re addressing some of the most FAQs.
What exactly is a CSA?
By joining a CSA, you agree to buy a share of a local farm’s harvest. You pay in advance and then get your portion (typically a box full of goodies) in weekly increments for the duration of the season. Some farms allow you to “pay” by volunteering on the farm. Buying into a farm for the year is a big commitment — we’ve covered the basics as well as the pros and cons our previous post “Is It Worth It to Join a CSA?”
How Do I Find A CSA?
State agriculture board Web sites and national web sites like LocalHarvest.org allow you to search for nearby CSA programs by zip code. You can also visit your local farmers’ market and ask around – even if your favorite farmer doesn’t offer a CSA, chances are they know of somebody that does.
What’s the Cost?
Cost will vary depending on location, demand, whether they deliver or not, and length. My CSA offers shares during all 4 seasons. Organic farms will often charge more because their products cost more to produce. It’s definitely worth doing your research and shopping around to find the best price. To save money and prevent waste, consider splitting a share with a friend for the first year. You can always supplement with regular trips to the farmers’ market.
What Will I Get?
Veggies, fruit and flowers are just the beginning. Since farms produce various items, often neighboring farms will join forces to offer milk, cheese, yogurt, honey, eggs, baked goods, meat and even seafood. Unlike the grocery store, your selection will change with the seasons.
TELL US: What do you want to know about CSAs?
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »