My local farmers market closed the weekend before Thanksgiving and I really miss it. I’m already looking forward to May when the first asparagus shows up on the stands and then a few weeks later, the strawberries. Oh, the local strawberries make me really happy.

Farmers markets aren’t the only way to get local produce. Another way to get local produce in season is to get it from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. And believe it or not, now is the time to sign up for a CSA because in many regions, they fill up quickly. If you wait until right before growing season, you might not get a spot.

What is CSA? I’ll let the good folks at Local Harvest explain it to you since they do it so well:

Many farms offer produce subscriptions, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, fruits, eggs, milk, meats, or any sort of different farm products.

A CSA, (for Community Supported Agriculture) is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up-front, but some farmers will accept weekly or monthly payments. Some CSA’s also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season.

Some CSA’s deliver. Some assign you a time each week to come and pick your basket up. Some only sell full baskets. Some will sell half baskets. Many people go in with their neighbors and buy a full basket to share. 

I think CSA’s are fabulous, yet I don’t participate in one. I really enjoy getting up early on a Saturday morning and heading out to the farmers market to choose exactly what I want.

But I can certainly see the benefits of being in a CSA. You get a variety of foods each week and that helps you to eat a varied diet. Every once in a while you’ll get foods you’ve never tried before forcing you to try new recipes. You might even be able to get the food delivered instead of having to head out at 7:30 am every Saturday morning.

If a CSA sounds good to you, you can find local ones by going to Local Harvest and searching by zip code or state. But do it quickly. The number of CSA’s are expanding each year, but so is the number of people taking advantage of this method that brings you local, in season foods and gives you the opportunity to support local farmers. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Now is the time to join a CSA
Get the best of your locally grown produce next year by joining a CSA now.