CSAs are hot right now, really hot. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is an investment in a farm for a season and in return you receive a fresh, weekly box of produce (some offer meats and dairy) during the growing season.
Prices range depending on the length and type of a program. It is important the consumer to understand and accept the risks before hand. However, should the season prove to be a productive one, then the reward is a bounty of goods for your kitchen.
At a recent conference (www.harvestnewengland.org), one of the panel discussions was about CSA programs. CSAs have long been associated with organic farms, but recent trends show that conventional growers are recognizing the benefits of offering CSA programs as well (which could lead to fewer chemical applications being used as the growers sees the consumer willing to carry higher costs of organic food sources, and the shared risk associated with CSAs).
While the panel stressed educating the public first about a CSA commitment, the demand is higher then it has ever been. More and more people want to contribute to the reduction of the carbon footprint associated with trucking food from place to place, and CSAs are another way to put a place, and a face, to what we eat.
CSAs have emerged as a viable economic platform for many growers to embrace, allowing for much needed start up capital to cover the costs of seeds, propagation, and labor well in advance of the first harvest, and the CSA member knows where their food is coming from and are willing to put some risk into the task of eating seasonally.
Is a CSA for you? Well that depends on several factors, most notably, are you prepared to eat seasonally? Does not getting tomatoes until late summer put the kibosh on your eating plans? Do you know what to do with a diversified menu of vegetables, say a rutabaga or parsnip, which will come late in the growing season?
Ask around to see if a CSA exist in your area. My bet is that they are available and if you are up to the task of eating seasonally then it just may be the program for you.