All Your Vegetables in One Basket: Harvest time is actually the right time to choose your CSA
Years ago, the farm was often the spoke of the community. People relied on knowing their farmer because he or she was in charge of growing their food. These days, though, it is often easier to grab a box of cereal at the grocery store than pick up a box of fresh veggies at the edge of town. But, over the past decade or so, CSAs—or Community Supported Agriculture—have blossomed in numbers, as a great way for consumers to reconnect with local farmers.
By joining a CSA you become a shareholder, meaning the farmer gets your financial support early in the season when money is often at its tightest. In exchange, you receive a weekly or bi-weekly (depending on your program) box of freshly picked produce.
Suzi Fry of Fry Family Farms has been serving the Rogue Valley with certified organic food for over twenty years on her small farm in Talent.
“CSAs allow people to have local produce and not have to make it down to a market,” Fry tells the Messenger. “Most of the time people sign up in the spring and get their box throughout the summer and a lot of times people pay for it up front. It’s great because spring is a time when most of us don’t have a lot of income, and the CSA has really helped us with that little window when we are scrambling for extra cash.”
Is there risk involved in joining a CSA?
Essentially, by joining a CSA you are sharing in the cost of growing this year’s food. You are invested in the farmer, the crop, and the weather. Shared risk creates strong community and a sense of “we’re in this together.” CSA farmers often feel a great deal of responsibility for their members and do their best to ensure that their members are getting the most for their money.
When can one join?
Interested members join early in the year which starts in June. Programs typically run until October or November, although some CSA’s have winter programs. Many CSA’s have a variety of programs that offer different options such as box sizes, selections (fruit, veggies, and flowers), and even delivery.
“You get fresh local produce that’s picked the day before you get your box,” Fry says. “It tastes really good because it doesn’t have to travel.”
What’s the best way for people to find the CSA that works best for them?
There are a handful of excellent CSA’s to choose from in the Rogue Valley. Which one is better than the other is simply a matter of personal preference.
“I think if people go online they can read about different CSAs and what they offer and then they can see what suits them best,” Fry says.
Some CSA’s do delivery (like Fry Family Farms) while others may provide a wider variety of food such as herd shares (like Willow-Witt Ranch in Ashland). Although the end of the season is an odd time to join, now is a great time to join a winter CSA or to research which CSA(s?) to join early next year.