by Patrick Morency
CSA’s (short for Community Supported Agriculture) are basically subscription-based farms. A local farm produces a harvest and the local community buys shares. Shares are generally paid for before the season, creating a ‘shared risk’ and a deeper feeling of community. Each shareholder accepts the possibility of a lean harvest, but also has a chance to benefit from a plentiful one. This system, in which members have a close relationship with their farmers and support and participate in the food production process, provides us with a vision of a more sustainable food economy.
Generally a share should not exceed what a family can consume by itself. A share typically consists of a box of vegetables, although certain produce and meat can be picked up by the shareholder weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Along with produce, eggs, meat, cheese, jerky, and other processed foods can also be available at CSA’s.Local farms can produce food all year long by utilizing preservation techniques such as smoking, canning and fermenting to get through the depths of winter.
There is no reason to rely on food shipped in on trucks and planes. Eating in season will curb variety at times, but the amount of energy wasted in the packaging and transportation process required to ship out-of-season foods from distant locations is exponential. Buying local and supporting a local economy is much more sustainable than the alternative as we barrel into a future of ever more volatile oil prices and major drought in our nation’s most densely farmed areas. By building community and providing fresh food, CSA’s make eating local a little easier.
*Here in the South Coast, a community project known as SEMAP (Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Project) supports local farms. Their website http://semaponline.org/home/ is a great resource for finding local CSA’s in your area along with helpful information about each program.