Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs are one unique way that a farm markets their produce to consumers. Members of a CSA pay a farmer early in the year (January or February) for a weekly share of produce during the growing season. This income goes to help farmers offset the seasonal cost of plant production, i.e. buying seed, plants, fertilizer, etc. In return, the consumer gets a box of fresh produce weekly throughout the growing season and a strong tie to local producers and the local economy. The CSA boxes are filled with seasonal products that come directly from the farm and items may include vegetables, herbs, fruits and sometimes eggs and meat products and value-added products. such as jams and jellies. Growers arrange drop-off locations for the boxes or customers go directly to the farm.

As a producer, CSAs are attractive because of the money you get up front and a personal connection with the consumer. Getting the money up front also means that you do not have to deal with cash, checks and missed payments. CSAs ensure that your product gets sold- a luxury that doesn't always come with the tailgate market setting. Challenges for producers include growing a wide variety of crops, supplying product each week, distributing it effectively, supplying recipes and newsletters to your customers and dealing with the unpredictable and sometimes destructive weather in North Carolina.

If you are interested in starting your own CSA, visit Debbie Roos's excellent CSA resource on her "Growing Small Farms" website or review Melissa Ann Brown and Jeanine Davis's Horticulture Information leaflet "Community Supported Agriculture in North Carolina".

To read more about CSAs read the article "Support Your Local Produce" recently published in the Raleigh News and Observer.

If you are interested in buying into a local CSA, visit ASAP's local food guide to find a CSA near you.

A new CSA in Buncombe County is with Cane Creek Valley Farm, an organic farm located in Fletcher.

If you are not located in WNC, visit Debbie's resource for CSAs located in other parts of NC.