Every other week, in the dead of night, wonderful people leave a cardboard box full of delights on my doorstep. For this service I can thank a farm delivery service commonly known as a CSA, or Community-Supported-Agriculture (also known as Community-Shared-Agriculture).
CSAs are different from grocery stores, which sell produce shipped from hundreds of vendors, even organic ones, under one roof. With CSAs, you buy a share of future harvests from one farmer, like Farm Fresh To You, or multiple farmers, like Doorstep Farmers, and reap the benefits of their harvests. You pay a subscription for this service, just like a magazine, and while some CSAs have on-site pick up from central locations, others deliver boxes directly to your doorstep on a regular basis, usually weekly or twice a month.
Whichever CSA you patronize, they are usually small, local, organic, and family-owned businesses, and they proudly grow produce the way Mother Nature intended, in harmony with the natural rhythms of weather and what’s in season. You won’t get a watermelon in winter that’s travelled hundreds of miles away.
My family discovers seasonal fruits and vegetables they’ve never had before as well as enjoy tried and true favorites. The service invites me to customize every delivery in advance online or do nothing for a pleasant surprise. Either way, everything is always healthy and delicious, and I know I am supporting a local farmer who practices sustainability.
The idea of CSAs originated from Europe in the mid-1980s, when an appreciation for the ecological connectedness between soils, plants, animals, and community entered people’s radar for a healthier and more ethical way of eating. CSA customers have a vested interest in where their food comes from – the way it is grown, the land it comes from, and the people who grow it. It is a community partnership that connects consumers directly to the source of food they eat. Supporting CSAs helps stabilize small farmers’ incomes during unpredictable weather, and they also keep money in the community, so they are good for the local economy.
After joining a CSA, my own family immediately noticed a huge difference in the produce we ate. Compared to food from the grocer, our delivery box of fruits and veggies was fresher, more flavorful and colorful, the textures were more pronounced, and we all started feeling healthier than before. We enjoyed eating and learning about what was in season, and it forced us out of our comfort zone for trying vegetables we may have shied away from before. I appreciate the letter from our farmer that includes recipe suggestions for preparing the accompanying produce, whether it’s Murasaki sweet potatoes or Lacinato kale, Pink Lady apples or Satsuma mandarins.
Some CSAs have diversified their offerings to include non-produce items like eggs, flowers, herbs, honey, olive oil, and soap. CSAs often offer customers opportunities to tour their farms, and some CSAs have annual farm-to-table dinners or other events on site. There are so many great reasons to join a CSA. You’ll be glad you did!
Local CSAs to try: