Community Supported Agriculture gets its name honestly. CSA means that the community is very literally buying in to support local agriculture directly at the beginning of the season or year. 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 season is when farmers traditionally have to put out a lot of money for big purchases: seeds, plants, replacement equipment and repairs, fertilizer, feed, etc.; all these things usually need to be bought early when not much is ready for harvest or sale. Lots of money going out and little to none coming in can make for a rough few months for farmers, especially those who are just getting started.
When you purchase a CSA share, though, you are signing up for a share of a farm’s harvest at the beginning of the season and they are committing to provide you with their products for an agreed-upon timeframe. This means that you are basically 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 they 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 said there was a risk with CSA: if a crop fails, you still owe produce to your participants. Crop failures aren’t uncommon. Bugs happen. Diseases happen. Droughts. Floods. A late freeze. Farming is risky business! But, your local farmers, Tiffany included, are going to 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 our 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 with all your questions! There’s no pressure to sign up if you’re unsure, and you’ll get to meet the friendly folks that grow your food. RSVP here.