The short answer is that CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In essence, a customer pays a local farmer a set amount of money at the beginning of the growing season. In return, throughout the season, the farmer provides the customer with regular “shares” of his crops. Most CSA shares are made available every week, either at the farm or by delivery to established pick-up locations. The contents of your share will vary depending on the season, what the farmer planted, and how successfully those crops grow.
But there’s actually a lot more to know about a CSA.
When you buy a CSA share, you are providing the farmer with a very hard-to-come-by resource: up-front capital. The farmer uses your money to buy seed, equipment, maintain and improve the farm, hire labor, and much more. Your money makes running a locally owned family farm possible in an economy that, generally, does not make more traditional financing options — like loans — available to small farms.
You’re also very likely to save money on your groceries. Averaged out over the growing season, the cost of participating in a CSA may be less than shopping at a grocery store or even a farmer’s market. You may even be able to pick up bulk items at even further reduced prices — tomatoes and cucumbers for canning and pickling, for instance.
Consider this: the food in your weekly CSA share was probably harvested just a day or two, possibly even just hours, before you pick it up, guaranteeing the nutritional value and quality of the food you purchase. Your CSA may also offer items from other local producers: eggs, cheeses, and meats, for instance.
Knowing exactly who grew your food is another important benefit of a CSA. Imagine being able to talk directly with the farmer, learning all about his farming practices, perhaps even taking your family to visit the farm where your food is grown!
These are just a few of the exciting benefits of participating in a CSA. Every farm is different, and there are an amazing variety of CSA options here in central Indiana, each with its own unique features and benefits.
Now is the perfect time to purchase your CSA and support a local farmer at the beginning of the 2015 growing season, when your dollars are most needed. Slow Food Indy has partnered with a number of local farms who offer CSA shares. Learn more about them here, and enjoy the best of Indiana’s locally grown bounty.
About the Author
Lorrie Wehr is an Indianapolis writer and sometimes-artist who believes sharing good food is the key to a good life.