CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and refers to the process of supporting local farmers and food producers. The concept of a CSA has evolved to refer to a food program where consumers buy shares of the farm and receive part of the crops. In this case, a family that buys into a CSA might receive a box of produce weekly, reducing their need to shop for groceries and buy produce from national retailers.
There are many benefits to investing in your local CSA, for both you and your community. Keep reading to better understand this concept and how you can find one in your area.
What Are the Benefits of Joining a CSA?
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There are three main parties that benefit from a CSA program: the consumers, the farmers, and the environment.
Consumers benefit because they get access to fresh, local produce. You can spend less time grocery shopping and more time creating delicious meals with your family. Because you don’t have to worry about the profit margins of chain grocery stores, the produce is often more affordable. You get more in each box than you would if you bought the items piecemeal while shopping.
Farmers benefit because they get support from their friends and neighbors. These local farms don’t have to try to sell their produce on a national level, potentially lowering prices and competing with large-scale operations. When local farmers are profitable, they contribute to the community economy. They pay taxes, eat at nearby restaurants, and buy more supplies.
Finally, the environment benefits because you buy local. Instead of shipping produce across the country (or across the world), the fruits and vegetables only travel a few miles from the farm to your table. By investing in a CSA, you can reduce carbon emissions and help underserved and hungry communities get produce because you bought yours locally.
How Can You Find a CSA in Your Local Area?
As CSAs grow in popularity, they are easier to find — especially in rural areas and communities with a large farm population. Your local CSA might have a waiting list when it first starts out because the farm still needs to scale up operations to meet the demand. Additionally, some farms limit the number of subscribers so they can stay small and focus on the quality of their goods.
To find a local CSA box, use the website Local Harvest. By submitting your zip code, you can find CSAs nearby and in distant cities. You can also look for other alternative ways to support local farmers. Use this site to find groceries, u-pick farms, farmers’ markets, and restaurants that support regional growers. This allows you to invest in community-supported agriculture even if you don’t get a box.
Another great resource to use is the Collin County Guide, which has a list of farmers selling organic food in Plano, Allen, and the rest of the area. This website is valuable because it breaks down the various types of farms regionally that you can support. While many CSA boxes focus on produce, you can buy cheese from local dairy farms, honey from nearby apiaries, and wine from Texas growers. The majority of the food you eat can be produced right here in Collin County, turning every meal into an opportunity to highlight the work of local food growers.
How Can You Know If What’s Offered Is Right for Your Family?
Many families make the mistake of signing up for the first CSA they find or the largest one in their area. If this is your strategy, you could end up paying for more than you realize and not getting what you want.
The first step toward getting a CSA box is to meet the farmer — or at least get to know the farm. Some CSAs offer farm tours where they discuss what produce they grow each season and how they grow it. If you want to primarily eat organic fruits and vegetables, this needs to be an important part of your research. Additionally, see if the farmer has any partnerships with other local producers to include cheese, meat, or honey in the boxes as well.
The next step is to evaluate your needs. How many fruits and vegetables do you eat each week? Will you really eat most of the produce in the CSA, or will it go to waste? While some families sign up for CSA boxes as a way to stay accountable when choosing healthy food and to introduce their kids to more vegetables, you likely won’t double or triple your vegetable intake in the long run. In fact, you could end up paying more for produce that you give away. Decide whether you want a monthly vegetable delivery or weekly pick-up. You can also evaluate the size of the boxes you will get.
You also need to consider the terms and agreements with the CSA. Some community share programs require subscribers to work at the farm at least one weekend each season. This is great for families who want to teach their kids about where their food comes from, but it might not be right for everyone. If you want a hands-off CSA, make sure you don’t need to attend any of these events.
Keep Learning About Local CSA Boxes
To learn more about CSA boxes and how they are changing in Texas, check out this article recently published in The Dallas Morning News. The article interviews Aliza Kilburn, co-owner of Comeback Creek Farm in Pittsburg, Texas, about her farm boxes and their popularity. You can learn why people enjoy these boxes and how farmers are evolving to meet the needs of their communities while staying profitable.
There are countless benefits of getting a CSA, from saving the planet by reducing carbon emissions to introducing your child to new foods that they would never have tried. If you have a favorite CSA box and live in Plano, Texas, let our team at Creme de la Creme of Plano, TX know. Tell us how you like it and what makes it unique. We are always looking for new ways to eat more vegetables and love supporting farmers while we do so.