Our good friends at Frog Holler Farm are starting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Customers have been asking for some time for one, and this year Frog Holler is going to give it a go. Local organic farms like Tantre in Chelsea and the Community Farm of Ann Arbor have been offering it for a number of years, and it offers a boon to growers and eaters alike. The eater is guaranteed a box of amazing (and sometimes unknown) vegetables and herbs over the course of the season (roughly late May to mid-October) each week. The farmer is guaranteed funds to keep that farm growing and going. The land stays in production, the eater gets food, and the farmer can stay in business. Perfection.
We joined our first CSA when I was going to grad school at Illinois State. A friend told us about Henry's Farm and the concept of getting food directly from them. We thought it sounded good, and so we split the share (box of food) for the season. It was an amazing experience. Along with about thirty other folks we waited in line to pick up our shares of vegetables and the little newsletter that gave us recipes, farm news, and updates about what was coming or going at the farm. It was the first time I'd ever eaten Swiss Chard, now a staple of my garden and diet, and spaghetti squash. The same was true of kale (another staple), burdock root, and diakon radish. It was the first time I heard the phrase "heirloom variety".
I got to thinking about all of this yesterday afternoon when I heard a piece on NPR about the salmonella scare that is currently sweeping the nation. My ears perked up though when one woman said she always buys at the market from a particular grower. She knew where her food was coming from and who grew it. There was no question of fearing her food. A similar piece in today's New York Times about CSA's talks more about the direct connection of eaters to growers. Meeting the person growing the food, seeing the farm, working the feeds (if you want), eating healthier food, and benefiting the environment are a handful of positive side-effects of such programs.
CSA membership can be expensive - running anywhere from $300 to $600 a season for a share - but considering a weekly food bill total for that time and the list of benefits above it seems like one of the best things going.