There are lots of downsides to our industrial, far-flung food supply that have vaulted local food to its massive popularity. The average food item travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate. The average farmer gets 9 cents of your food dollar, while grocery stores, marketers, processors, and middlemen get the other 91 cents. Large industrial farms employ just three full-time workers per $1 million in revenue, while local farms employ 13.
All those reasons have contributed to the tripling of the number of farmers’ markets over the past 15 years. Consumers want to meet the people who grow the food they eat and support a food system that has long-term, local benefits. But let’s face it, farmers’ markets, great as they are, can be inconveniently located, scheduled at odd hours, and sold out of all the good stuff unless you get there within an hour of the opening. Then what? Sign up for a CSA! A CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm puts you in direct contact with a single farmer who supplies you with a box of fresh produce once a week throughout the entire growing season, which, depending on where you live, usually lasts about 6 months. You’re essentially buying a share of the farm’s harvest, similar to stock-market shares in a company, and you can buy any number of shares to fit your personal diet or that of a big family.
There are more than 12,500 farms in the United States that sponsor CSA programs, compared to just over 7,000 farmers’ markets. You can search the web for CSAs near you, but that won’t always result in a successful farmer-locavore pairing. There are a few things any CSA newbie should think about before signing up—after all, these do require a rather hefty up-front investment—but find a local farmer who supplies good organically grown food, and you may never have to worry about navigating a crowded farmers’ market again.
Continue reading for 9 questions to consider when signing up for a CSA.
Photo: (cc) sidewalkshoes/flickr