Harvest-time is in full-swing at many farms throughout the country. While the term “harvest” is usually associated with farmers, “community supported agriculture” (CSA) brings the consumer and farmer together whereby they both share a stake in the farm.
Consumers can purchase a share in a farm (usually) on a quarterly basis and pick up their fruits and vegetables directly from the farm on a weekly basis. In this arrangement, the farm will tell you which fruits and vegetables will be part of your box that you will pick up that week. This adds an element of anticipation to the arrangement and adds variety to your fruit and vegetable consumption.
This arrangement also gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting your local farm. An added advantage is that you can form a personal relationship with the farmer who can field all your questions regarding fruits and vegetables grown on the farm.
Some farms also offer the option to add on other items, like eggs and honey. It’s always worth inquiring with the farm to see what kind of add-ons are available.
When COVID-19 hit, CSAs grew even more popular. A primary reason being that by participating in the CSA arrangement, consumers were able to avoid the holes in the supply chain due to COVID-19 by going directly to the source, the farm itself. In an article, “Here’s why CSAs are thriving during the pandemic,” published this past April in The Counter (an online non-profit journalistic medium that investigates the food industry unbiasedly), Jennifer Grossman, a farm and restaurant owner, was quoted on this exact point saying: “This challenge [COVID-19] we’re now facing has refocused the value of regional food systems as they are proving to provide resilience and transparency in a time when so much is uncertain.” An NPR Article, “As Food Supply Chain Breaks Down, Farm-To-Door CSAs Take Off” published in early May, similarly reported: “The coronavirus has exposed the vulnerabilities and fragility of the U.S. global agribusiness supply chain.”
The boom in CSA demand cannot be overemphasized. The New York Times published a Regional article in early May, that spoke of COVID-19 and CSAs titled ”Small Farms in N.Y. Are Experiencing a Surprising Boom. Here’s Why.” The Sang Lee farm in Long Island was cited as experiencing heavy in-person traffic due to the coronavirus. The manager had to close it down and move to a CSA arrangement in order to handle all the demand. Once she moved to a CSA model, things became more orderly. This showed not only the greater demand for farm produce during the coronavirus outbreak but how CSAs can serve the community with efficiency.
Newsday also reported about the booms in CSAs in a mid-April article, “Long Island CSA farms surge in popularity amid coronavirus pandemic.” In the article, the farmers interviewed noted the uptick in demand and how people want to secure their food early.
I joined a local farm and have been reaping the benefits. Each week we are surprised by the new types of vegetables we receive in our box. Sometimes we add flowers grown on the farm to our order. New dishes can always be made based on the fresh produce we get that week.
To find the closest farms near your location that participate in a CSA program, you can search Localharvest.org or USDA’s CSA Directory. Another option is to do a basic search for local farms near you.