What is A CSA?
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. A CSA is a program where one can buy a share of a farmer’s produce for the upcoming season. This means you pay up front for food from the coming season. CSA programs will have a program time span, during which you will receive produce periodically. For most CSAs its usually weekly but different CSAs have different frequencies. Produce is usually picked up on the farm where it is grown or at a distribution center. Some programs have alternate or multiple pick up locations for greater convince.
How does it work?
image from: http://www.kilpatrickfamilyfarm.com/csa/
Support Local Farmers
By paying for your share up front ahead of the season farmers have, guaranteed investors in their produce, and money to buy seeds and other supplies.
Food from a CSA comes locally and straight to you so its fresher than food you find at a super market!
image from: http://www.portlandcsa.org/what-is-csa/
Generally CSA’s save you money in the long run. Since the food is skipping long travel and several intermediates the food costs less.
Try new Foods
Many CSA’s do not let you control what you receive week to week (though some do). In many cases any harvested produce is divided into the CSA shares so whatever is grown, you get. Usually you are familiar with all if not most of the food available, but occasionally you get something you have never tried before. Then you get to try something new! That’s how I tried Celeriac, which is slightly bewildering and terrifying upon first encounter, but is delicious roasted.
image from: http://www.bostonorganics.com/celeriac-celery-root/pr/celeriac-celery-root
CSAs generally require a large upfront payment with prices often ranging between $100-$300. Price depends on how much food is given, and what type of share is being purchased. More expensive shares can include items such as meat or value added products – products that have been processed such as sauce or jams. Many CSA offer different shares at different prices so you can choose a share that fits your budget.
An option to mitigate the upfront cost is to split a CSA share with a friend. This is a great option since if one or both of you have certain food allergies, or just really dislikes a fairly common food then the other can take it from that weeks share. This also means you can have company when you go to pick up the food, or can alternate picking up the food.
Inconsistent Amounts of Food
While CSAs try to make sure they provide a certain minimum of food, sometimes such as in the beginning of the season, there just isn’t that much produce at the moment. However sometimes there is a ton of produce and the weekly box or bag will be bursting.
Finding A CSA For You
There are several CSA’s that operate near College Park such as Eco City Farms or 5 A Day CSA. There are plenty of CSAs in the DMV area. To find a CSA near you check out Local Harvest’s database of CSAs or for a shorter more local guide check out The Washington Post’s CSA Map guide.