Yesterday I got an email from my neighborhood CSA that our 2009 shares were open! Hurray! Last year was the first year I participated in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and it was wonderful. For those of you who might not know, CSA is a great way for consumers (especially city-bound apartment dwellers like me) to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Farmers offer "shares," or a membership or subscription, which are purchased at the beginning of the season. In return, you receive a box/bag of seasonal produce once a week through the farming season...My neighborhood CSA runs from mid-June to late November, and it comes from a farmer in upstate New York. (I live in Brooklyn.) CSA share prices vary, but in my case they're offered on a sliding payscale from $370 to $490 for the whole season (6 months worth of vegetables!). Many farmers open their farms up to their customers, hosting weekend "Get To Know Your Farmer" events where you can visit the farm and see firsthand how and where your food is grown.
By participating in a CSA, you are entering into a contract with your farmer, an agreement to stick with him/her through good weather and bountiful crops, but also storms, drought and disease. Many farms rely on CSAs to get through the season, as the early payment helps them keep their head above water, especially in rough times.
On a personal note, one of the best things about participating in a CSA is getting exposed to new vegetables and ways of cooking. If my share that week has a bunch of turnips, I better figure out how to eat them so I don't waste them!
Are you interested in signing up for a CSA? Check out Local Harvest for more information and to find a CSA near you. Because there's only a limited amount, CSA shares sell out pretty quickly. So check it out now!