As a member of the prepper community, you probably buy produce locally and may have heard about CSAs. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a farm share service. Often, these shares are provided by a single farmer, but sometimes several local farmers get together to provide a variety of locally-sourced produce to the community.
To become a member of a CSA, you purchase a share of the farm ahead of time. This helps support the farmer and then the farmer provides each shareholder with a basket of fresh produce each week. Some CSAs offer produce biweekly or monthly rather than weekly.
Why Use a CSA?
What is the benefit of joining a CSA over purchasing produce directly from local farmers or a grocery store? Typically, most farmers offer CSA shares in January or February. Selling shares during a season when most farmers sell the least amount of produce helps the farmer stay in business throughout the year.
A CSA also helps a farmer spend more time on the farm rather than having to spend time in a farmer’s market or paying someone else to sell their produce. When you join a CSA, you also contribute to the local economy and keep local farms alive.
Other Benefits of CSAs
In addition to the above benefits from joining a CSA, you will also enjoy the following benefits:
- Experience farm growing: Some CSA farmers offer “open houses” to their shareholders. This is a chance for you and your family to see how things are grown in your local area and actually meet the farmers. This is a great way to show how food is made to children and get them interested in growing their own foods.
- Seasonal eating: Studies have shown that eating seasonally is the best way to maximize your health. A study conduced by the University of California showed that foods like spinach and green beans lose up to 2/3rds of their nutritional content within a week of harvest. A 1997 study from the UKMinistry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food showed that milk showed higher concentrations of vitamin A in the summer when skin protection is most important. The study concluded that this was due to the diet of the cows, which changed depending on what was available in-season. Eating seasonal foods will not only help maximize the nutrition of every vegetable and fruit, but may help give you the right nutrients for each season. Plus, seasonal produce tastes so much better!
Where to find a Local CSA
If you are interested in joining a CSA, it is easy to find one. The following sites offer a searchable index of local CSAs around the United States.
- Local Harvest
- ATTRA Local Food Directories
- USDA Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
- Rodale Institute Farm Locator
If there isn’t a CSA close to where you live, you may still be able to find produce co-ops that will offer seasonal, local produce for you to eat: Where to find local produce.
Sustaining Your Environment with a CSA
When you choose to use a CSA you are supporting your community, your health, and your environment.
Recipes for Your CSA Produce
Our friends at The Untrained Housewife are teaming up to create an exhaustive list of ways to use in-season produce. If you’re looking for recipes for your CSA produce, Eating Garden Fresh – A Summer of Whole Foods is the place to start!
Do you use a CSA? What is your favorite way to get fresh, local produce?