Plan Now for Fresh Summer Produce
By: Kelsey Johnson
Key to the mission of Buy Fresh Buy Local is to connect and build relationships between people and the farmers that grow their food, and nothing embodies that mission quite like CSAs. For those who aren’t aware, CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” and is a program in which customers participate in both the spoils and risks of the growing season. Members sign up to receive a “share,” or a box of produce each week dependent on the farm’s yields. In essence, CSA participants become members of the farm and thus create a community that revolves around quality, locally grown produce.
The advantages of such a system benefit both the participant and the farmer to varying degrees. The relationship helps farmers gather a network of support, customers, and finances before their work load increases during the busy season. In turn, members get first priority on a range of the freshest produce available. Shareholders are often invited to visit the farm, sent a newsletter and kept informed on farm happenings, and encouraged to utilize ingredients they might not have purchased otherwise. Together, the farmer and customer form a team with the mindset: “we’re in this together.”
There are a variety of BFBL farms that offer CSA memberships, from student to fall to summer shares. Summer shares generally run for 20 weeks and average $500, or $25 a week. Plus, due to the growing demand, many CSA programs have been expanding in recent years. For example, new this year is The Wallace Centers of Iowa’s spring share that they’ve added in addition to their growing summer and fall shares.
Produce varies by season, but Andrew and Melissa Dunham from Grinnell Heritage Farm assure a “wide variety of vegetables and herbs, including the familiar carrots, beans, and potatoes along with the more unusual romanesco cauliflower and celeriac.” While the Grinnell Heritage Farm is strictly a produce CSA, add-ons and features vary by farm. The Homestead focuses a lot of efforts on maintaining their orchard, and shareholders receive a larger volume of fruits than your typical Iowa CSA. Or, if you’re a garlic enthusiast, jump on board with Grade A Gardens, who have the largest variety of garlic available! Raccoon Forks Farm offers pre-orders for eggs (and even chickens!) that run for 26 weeks that can be purchased in addition to, or separately from a veggie CSA.
But while the vegetables might be a large draw, joining a CSA is much more than pre-ordering produce for a season. For Ben Saunders of Wabi Sabi Farm, the benefits of the program are many, “One of the best things is to have that sense of community,” he said. “Growing food for people that I know. People who know me.” On a similar note, Raccoon Forks Farm also “love CSAs because we get to provide locally grown healthy food for our community!” So, if you’re looking for a way to build an intimate connection with both your food and the community that surrounds it, consider signing up for a 2014 CSA. For more detailed information, check out the Wheatsfield Coop CSA fair tomorrow, and look out for updates on another fair scheduled to take place at Campbell’s Nutrition next month!