The last Friday in February is a celebration of the direct-to-customer business model that allows small farmers to continue growing wonderful fresh food.
Signing up for a CSA share is one of the best ways to ensure fresh, seasonal vegetables in your home on a regular basis. CSA stands for ‘community supported agriculture’, and refers to a direct-to-customer business model for farmers. People pay upfront for a season’s worth of vegetables, which provides farmers with much-needed income ahead of the growing season, and then they enjoy a box of delicious local produce every week for a set number of months.
The idea for an official CSA Day took root in 2015. An organization called Small Farm Central, while publishing its annual CSA Farming report, found that the end of February was the most common time for people to sign up for CSA shares, so it decided to create CSA Day on the last Friday of the month.
The CSA model is significant because it’s a direct-to-customer business model that allows small-scale, often organic, farmers to continue growing food on a scale that normally would not be sustainable. With most signups happening in late winter, it generates income at the slowest time of year, when farmers need the capital to be able to fix machinery and buy seeds.
So when your dollars go toward a CSA share, you can rest assured that it’s going directly to the person who grows your food – something that cannot be said for grocery store sources. Says Simon Huntley, CEO of Small Farm Central:
“In a world with so many intractable problems – take your pick: homelessness, war, financial and political instability – joining a CSA is a small, but concrete act that improves our land, community, economy and quality of life. It is a small act with big consequences.”
I have subscribed to a CSA share for nearly six years. The vegetables come year-round, which means that, right now, my family is growing increasingly tired of endless cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets – but just think how incredible those salad greens will taste in a few short months! The experience has totally changed my view on seasonality and the way I cook, forcing me to use what’s in the fridge, not what a recipe calls for. I’ve discovered interesting foods (kohlrabi, mustard greens, watermelon radishes, locally grown dried beans), and been able to reduce packaging waste significantly, since the CSA share is unpackaged. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
If you’re worried about the size of a share, CSAs usually come in a few sizes. Different farms have different policies; some allow customers to opt out of specific vegetables and request more of another. Mine does not, but it provides a weekly newsletter with recipes and ideas for using many of the vegetables, which is very helpful.
So what are you waiting for? Check out this list of 1,000 American and Canadian CSA shares currently available and sign up this CSA Day to show your support for small-scale farmers.