Buying Farm-Fresh Food

Shopping at one of the 2,500 farmers' markets in the US is an enriching experience.

By Elizabeth Coleman

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Find a CSA Near You
Community supported agriculture

Joining a CSA farm is like buying a "share" in that farm's harvest. You pay in advance and you receive a weekly box full of fresh vegetables and fruit (and sometimes flowers, eggs, and meat), delivered from the farm right to your door or a convenient drop-off location. By paying in advance (average shares run between $300 and $600), shareholders help the farmer raise the cash for seeds and supplies, and they also share the farmer's risk. In good years the farmer grows more and the shareholders get more; in lean years, less. Some farms sell straight subscriptions; others ask customers to help out for a certain number of hours each month in exchange for a reduced subscription fee. There are now more than 1,000 Community Supported Farms (or CSAs) across the United States and Canada, many of which are completely organic.

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
This site hosts acomprehensive database of national state-by-state CSA farms.

Local Harvest
This site has a easy access zipcode search as well as a newsletter which lists sources for farmers markets, family farms, food coops, and restaurants in your area.

Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources
This site hosts a comprehensive listing of CSA farms across the USA. The information is broken down by state for quick and easy access.

Biodynamics.com
This site links to the USDA's CSA farm database and has lots of background information on CSA farms.

Find a Co-op Near You
Food co-ops

If you want reliable access to affordable high quality, fresh, local, organic produce and natural products, consider joining a food cooperative. A co-op is a buyers' club of sorts. Unlike a CSA farm, it is an actual store that stocks a variety of goods from produce to natural beauty products. Members buy "shares" of the business to provide the capital necessary to run the co-op effectively. Members are then granted discounts. Most co-ops also offer a greater discount to members who volunteer several hours a week or month. Since you—as a member—are a shareholder you directly influence the kind and variety of produce, foods and products available. You can help choose which farmers will supply the produce, and what sort of produce will be available. Co-ops give you the power to determine where your food comes from and the knowledge that it is the best available. Similar to the CSA they encourage and support local farmers in their production of high quality organic produce.

Prairienet
Extensive list of food co-ops in the USA and Canada. Search by state from Alaska to Wisconsin and everything in between. You can also click on "List of Co-ops on the Web" for either an alphabetical or location based list. National Co-op Business Association
Here you'll find everything you ever wanted to know about the world of co-ops. Little did we know, it extends far beyond the boundaries of the food co-op. From information on child care co-ops to health, energy and legal services and more.

Northeast Cooperatives
Not as direct as the other searches because it doesn't offer contact information for the co-ops. You have to email Northeast Cooperatives and they'll put you in contact with the co-op. The list however, is very detailed and showed some the others did not.

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