It’s that time of year again – farmers are taking in membership forms for their 2011 CSA programs. Hurry…don’t miss out on this opportunity! If you love local food, or even if you are trying to work more of it into your family’s diet, CSAs are a great way to establish a healthy regular pattern of eating fresh produce and a wonderful way to get kids (and adults!) to try new foods. It’s also a great way to meet your NC 10 Percent Challenge. The best part of a CSA is the familiarity you gain with a certain farm’s practices and the relationship you create with your farmer.
Charlotte Fresh and Hubby appreciate belonging to a CSA and visiting the farm. We also supplement our box contents with trips to the farmers’ market for things that we might need that we don’t find in the weekly box. I always like to share with you new food sources and new things, so for those of you who followed some of our CSA experience last year, you won’t have a re-run with this year’s posts; we will be joining a different CSA this year for variety. (Many thanks to PRF for being able to experience last year’s goodies.) Stay tuned for details on which farm we will join for 2011 and get ready for all the great pics and recipes you’ll see this season.
If you’re new to the concept, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The practice has been around for a long time, but has been gaining local popularity recently with more small sustainable farms available in our region. Usually a community of members pledge to support a farm each season by buying a subscription for a set number of weeks. The size of the member community varies by farm. By establishing a CSA member list and collecting fees at the beginning of the season, the grower knows the volume of crops to plan for and establishes the budget to deliver a season of high quality, locally grown produce. With a CSA, the grower and consumer share in the benefits and the risks of production; weekly volume can vary based on a variety of factors, for example drought conditions.
How does a CSA work? Members typically sign up for a full share (weekly) or half share (every other week) system of delivery to a central drop location or farm pick-up. It’s important to understand that for your membership, you get a share of the weekly harvest, not a physical share of the farm itself. Your farmer will let you know the specific details of how his/her program works. Seasonally ripe vegetables and fruit are placed in the weekly boxes or bags (usually enough for a family of four), and there will be variation in volume and what type of harvest is received as the season progresses. Sometimes CSA programs also offer eggs or meat. Growers will usually let you know what each week’s harvest is likely to be.
For more information on CSAs in general, visit the Local Harvest website. This link is a list of some Charlotte area farmers on Local Harvest to contact about their 2011 CSA programs. NC Farm Fresh and the Mecklenburg County Fruit & Vegetable Coalition also have lists of some area CSA farms. Don’t forget that there are many other farms in our area that may not be on those lists, so please ask the farmers directly when you next visit the local farmers’ markets.