Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) gets its name honestly. Community-Supported Agriculture is a system where consumers purchase “shares” of a farms harvest. Members pay for their share up front and then receive seasonal goods on a regular basis, usually weekly. Further, CSA means that a community of people is collectively invested in the success of a farm which can in turn increase the likelihood of that farm’s success thanks to the influx of income at the beginning of the growing season. Supporting your local farmers is good practice at any time of year, but your support packs an extra punch at the start of the season.
Early in the growing season, farmers often have to spend a disproportionate amount of money on seeds, plants, replacement equipment and repairs, fertilizer, feed, etc. With lots of money going out and little to none coming in, this time of year can be rough on farmers — especially new and beginning farmers.
When you purchase a CSA share, though, you are investing not only in your own wellness, but also in your local farmer! When you invest in a share of a farm’s harvest at the beginning of the season, they are committing to provide you with their products for an agreed-upon timeframe. This means that you are reserving your local fruit and veggies ahead of time (making it more likely you’ll actually eat them), and you’re giving the farm’s cash-flow a boost when it needs it most.
Tiffany Stanley from A Different Chick Farm agrees. She and her family run a 6-acre farm and orchard in Johnson City, and began their CSA program in 2019. She said that having that extra boost was tremendously helpful to keep things moving at the beginning of the year because they were able to use CSA funds to purchase seeds and starts instead of having to rely on loans or the previous season’s revenue. She also admits there is an inherent risk with CSA, saying, “If a crop fails, you still owe produce to your participants. Crop failures aren’t uncommon; bugs happen, diseases happen, droughts, floods, and late freezes are all possible in our region. Farming is risky business!” But local farmers, Tiffany included, make every effort to deliver. If their apples have a bad year, they’ll give you more of something else. You’ll get your money’s worth, and probably more.
As you consider your impact on your local agriculture economy, consider joining a local CSA. If you aren’t sure which CSA is right for you, come to our fair on February 29th where you can meet dozens of local CSA farmers and ask all your questions! There’s no pressure to commit to a CSA if you’re unsure, and you’ll get to meet the friendly folks that grow your food. RSVP here.