|Weekly CSA share at Willow Haven Farm|
It’s late-July and vegetable production is in full swing across the state. I know my garden is so awash with produce I can barely keep up with yield, so much so that I’ve been doling out zucchinis to my friends at every social function. Vegetable farmers are equally inundated with produce this time of year. To ensure they have an outlet for these crops, many vegetable farms offer CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, shares. The premise behind a CSA program is to encourage consumers to create a closer relationship with the farmer and get a closer look at how their food is grown.
In a CSA, consumers support farmers by paying for a share of the harvest before each growing season. This helps the farmer purchase seeds, equipment, and pay farm hands when needed, instead of waiting until the harvest to bring in funds. By paying upfront, consumers are assuming the risks of crop failure due to pests, diseases and weather, just like farmers do each year. The majority of these risks can be managed with proper planning and diagnosis, but there are some that cannot be avoided. If a farmer’s tomato harvest is destroyed by late blight and the cucumbers are thriving, that would be reflected in the weekly share – no tomatoes but ample cucumbers. This CSA structure allows consumers to be more closely connected with how food is grown, while helping to support the farmers by removing unpredictability of income.
CSAs are growing in popularity. Current estimates show that there are between 30,000 and 50,000 people in the U.S. that belong to a CSA. CSAs can range in size, from smaller operations with 10 or 20 members to much larger operations with a few hundred members. Most CSAs provide a variety of eight to twelve vegetables, herbs and fruits in their share each week in the summer, with an average of five to seven pounds of vegetables. CSAs offer weekly share pickups in the summer, while winter CSAs may only distribute once or twice a month because of lower produce availability.
CSAs are a great way for consumers to help support local farmers and make sure they eat their veggies each week. By having a set amount and type of veggies each week, you have to learn to both cook and eat them!
Support Your Farmer:
LEHIGH VALLEY: Willow Haven Farm nestled in the rolling hills of the Blue Mountain in rural Weisenberg Township grows natural, chemical free vegetables for their CSA. The farm also raises chickens, sheep and cows. Come visit Willow Haven Farm on the 2013 Lehigh County Open Gate Farm Tour!
BUCKS: Blooming Glen Farm in Perkasie grows a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers, available at farmer's markets and through their CSA.