What is a CSA?

Posted: Monday, February 9, 2015 9:45 pm
By Tessa Edick


Seed money is an idea we use in business but its roots are in agriculture. The idea was based in sharing the risk to eat with a farmer who would grow the food. You pay the farm in advance to help the farmer buy seed needed to plant and produce crops. In a good year, everyone would prosper with an abundance of bounty for months to come, and in years where crops failed or weather was damaging, everyone shared in the loss together.


Joining a CSA will change your life. Who’s your farmer? I ask everyone… If you don’t invest in farmers to feed you — you are missing out. It’s not a new idea and it just makes sense to return to our agrarian society and healthier food ways.


“Know your farmer, know your food” concept is about building relationships and offers benefits beyond taste. By sourcing food locally every time we eat, we decentralize the food system making our food safer, healthier and a better value too, which means you look and feel better.


Everyday make conscious choices about what you eat and opt out of processed food. You will have energy, lose weight, dissolve cravings, sleep better and your skin will radiate. When did we swap nutrition for convenience? Is it really less expensive or more convenient to be sick? Empty food calories clearly cost us more than any organic or locally sourced food.


And if you needed a convincing bonus — agriculture builds communities too. CSA is not a buzzword; it’s a way of life. Think about how meaningful it is to make real changes in the world by simply eating better.


What is a CSA? CSA is a new name for an ancient practice when people knew where their food came from, ate in harmony with the seasons, enjoyed healthy diets and shared the risk with the farmer for the benefit of protecting the community’s food source.


Community-Supported or Community-Shared Agri-culture is also known as “subscription farming.” You buy direct from a local farmer just like you would buy any subscription — but instead of receiving a magazine each week, you receive a “share” of fresh, locally grown or raised vegetables or fruit.


Sourcing produce from a farmer down the road is rewarding on many levels. You buy vegetables or fruit or eggs picked that very morning — bursting with flavor and nutrition and skip the going to the store chore. A CSA becomes your very own shopping cart when you “subscribe” to a CSA — and the farm becomes your supermarket. It’s brilliant.


Some farmers also offer CSA memberships for farm-fresh eggs, poultry, meat, medicinal herbs, remedies and dairy. Be sure to ask your farmerwhat’s available and payment options?


This year you can find out yourself at the CSA Fair being held at the Hudson Opera House over two Sundays 2/15 and 3/1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hudson to “kick off” sign ups with dozens of farms bringing the community together to learn about CSA, meet your farmer and invest in farm shares in your community. Becoming a CSA member you help to build a bridge between people that in turn builds communities that yield local economies and revitalize health and wellness for us all — just by sourcing local food for your own table with a conscious.


A CSA typically runs from late spring through Thanksgiving. I’m a CSA member at two local farms — one for vegetables and another for grass-fed organic meat. Each have different payment structures — one in full in advance and another debits my card monthly. I can cancel at any time! I conveniently pick up both CSA shares on days specified. It’s genius — alleviates the hassle of parking and lines in the supermarket and my family is so excited — especially come dinnertime!


The CSA model takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction with the notion of shared risk. In most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundant box of produce each week. If harvest is not abundant, members are not typically reimbursed and a “we’re in this together” feeling emerges. On some farms the idea of shared risk is stronger than others, and CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.


CSAs have had so much success recently farmers have begun to introduce variations like “mix and match” or “market-style” CSA. Here, rather than making up a standard box of vegetables for every member each week, the members load their own boxes with some degree of personal choice. The farmer lays out the week’s vegetables and encourage members to take a prescribed amount of what’s available, leaving behind just what their families do not eat. Some CSA farmers then donate this extra produce to a food bank. In other CSAs, the members have wider choice to fill their box with whatever appeals to them, within certain limitations so everyone has a fair share.


Make sure you understand the rules of your CSA. Farms differ in their policy regarding what happens with your box if you don’t pick it up (vacation or forgetfulness) so make sure you ask how these situations are dealt with in advance of pick up days.


If you are not accustomed to eating seasonally, you may find that it takes a while to make a transition from eating whatever is at the grocery store (everything you might want) to whatever is in your CSA basket (seasonal offerings). It may surprise you to find that tomatoes do not ripen until August in your area. You should expect the season to start off lighter than it finishes. In most areas, the first crops will be salad greens, peas, and garlic scapes, and by the end of the season, the boxes should be much heavier, with things like watermelon, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli and squash. Many farms provide a list of what produce to expect when and a Thanksgiving offer come fall. All of it harvests pure gratitude.


Buy locally grown food. Ask questions and meet your farmer! Rediscover the benefits of buying food in your own community with a CSA; it is fresher than anything in the supermarket, which means better taste and more nutrition — so you are less hungry. It also supports the local economy and buying directly from family farms helps them stay in business. Get involved Stand up for your farming community and food choices. Your body will thank you — and the farmer will too. FarmOn!


The CSA Fair will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 15 and March 1 at the Hudson Opera House, 327 Warren St., Hudson. It will be free and includes Kids crafts, Truck Pizza, Book Signing “Hudson Valley Food & Farming: Why Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell Me That?”


Copyright © 2015 Columbia-Greene Media