Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be neighbors with a farmer? To enjoy the neighborly bounty of a local farm all year long? You can still have that same experience without being right next door, thanks to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSAs allow you to become a shareholder in a local farm.
Basically, you become an investor in a farmer’s harvest and reap the benefits by receiving boxes of fresh produce or meat, eggs, milk, and dry goods in return. Some investment programs provide weekly returns, some bi-monthly, and some just once a month. Yum! Who wouldn’t want in-season deliciousness delivered straight to their door, or a prearranged local pick-up spot?
Community Supported Agriculture became a hip thing in the U.S. in the 80s, following the time-tested European model. Typically put together by farmers (but sometimes by consumers), CSAs afford farmers many benefits:
- Consistent cash flow. It’s typically feast or famine on a farm, and that can be difficult to navigate.
- They get the opportunity to build relationships with their investors – locals like you and me! Loyalty goes far with any kind of business, farms included.
- They get to take care of the earth better. This investor relationship is all about responsibility: growing good-quality food while maintaining the soil in a responsible manner. They want to keep growing far into the future, and this allows them the freedom to do this.
- More profit. The CSA arrangement cuts out the middle person. Farmers don’t have to pay truckers (consumers often pick up right from the farm), distributors, or grocery stores. All product goes directly to the consumer.
The consumers (that’s us) get a ton of benefits from community-supported agriculture as well. Think about it:
- We get to eat top quality food.
- We’re keeping all our money local.
- We get to know more about the growing process.
- Many farms host special events for their investors throughout the year.
- You’re introduced to new varieties of foods and ways to prepare them.
- And it’s crazy, but kids are more apt to eat veggies when they see how they’re grown. Okay, adults are, too.
Keep in mind that investing in a CSA also means sharing a farmer’s risk. There’s no telling what a season will bring – whether an abundant harvest or slim pickings. But knowing you’re in it together, that you’re both investing in your community, and all rooting for each other – these things make this symbiotic relationship a powerful force.
Portland has its own community support agriculture coalition. There are dozens and dozens of farms in the mix. Some have been part of the CSA for more than twenty years. Some farms are run by third generation farmers. And some of the farms are certified organic. There’s a wide variety of product to choose from, from meat, to produce, to flowers. There are lots of local pick-up stops. And the best part? All the farmers are passionate about getting healthy food into your hands, along with the know-how and confidence to use it. Find out more here: Portland Area Community Supported Agriculture.
Want to know more? There’s a CSA Share Fair scheduled for Sunday, February 25th from 9:00am-3:00pm at 907 NW Irving, right here in Portland. You’ll be able to meet more than 40 local farmers, explore some farm matchmaking, enjoy a few kids’ activities, participate in food workshops, buy some garden starts, and lots of other things. I’m pretty sure you’re not gonna want to miss it. Community Supported Agriculture is one of the best things you can do for your family’s health and for your local community!
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* All images in Stephanie’s blogs are free for commercial use, sourced from Unsplash and Pexels. *