Community Supported Agriculture
Many farms in our Baltimore Foodshed use the Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA model. In a CSA, a farm partners with local consumers by offering subscription options. You pay a set cost up front for a set season of time. Throughout the farm’s season, you receive produce, meat, milk, whatever it is the farm offers. The CSA model is valuable for the farmer, as it allows them to have money upfront to help with costs, and guarantees that their food will find a consumer. A CSA allows the consumer to share in the risk of farming. When you pay for your farm’s subscription, you are paying for a share of their harvest. If that harvest is smaller one week, you may not receive as much food.
There are many different ways to run a CSA. Each farm will have their own method. Some may choose to partner with other farms. Each farm will determine their own “season” for when you will receive items. The farmer may offer a delivery service, sometimes to your home, other times to a set pick up point. You may receive food weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
The community supported agriculture map above will help you locate CSAs that are near you. You can look through different farm websites to see what they offer, when they offer it, how much it costs, and how you can receive your box of food. There are a few CSAs that operate in winter, but most only offer food in warmer months.
Some of the CSAs only deliver to a pick up point, but there are those that deliver to homes. If a farm offers delivery, let them know you are interested so they know they have customers in that area. Ask them if they deliver in your area. If you really want food from that farm, but they don’t deliver to your area, see if you could find them more business in your neighborhood! If there are many customers in your town, they just might find a way to get their products to you, whether at a pick up point, or to your home.
Buying from a CSA is a bit different from buying at a farmers market. Some CSAs offer a set box each week. A farmer likely will let you know what you might expect, but they choose what goes into each box. Others have a points system, where different items cost different amounts of points. This ensures you can choose what you want, but that a share remains fair from subscriber to subscriber.
Community Supported Agriculture is great for people who want to try new things, as some of the items included may not be something you are familiar with. If you want the ultimate flexibility, go visit a farmers market. But if you want something you can count on each week, and enjoy trying new foods, a CSA can be a great choice for you.
Some CSAs offer winter options so you can continue to get your local foods year round! Several offer produce, others offer meat options. Eating from CSAs year round is a great option.