If you’re alive and eat vegetables, chances are that you’ve heard someone buzzing about his or her share in a CSA.
The movement of buying foods direct from local farms has been on the rise for the past few years as America on the whole has become more focused on eating local.
CSAs first gained traction in the early 2000s. Between 2004 and 2009, the number of community-supported agriculture programs grew by an astounding 114 percent!
So while there’s no disputing that they’re a bona fide food trend, are CSAs actually good for your wallet or just a popular way to buy more organic vegetables than one human could possibly eat?
LearnVest explores how CSAs work … and whether one is likely to work for you.
What Is a CSA, Anyway?
CSA, which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” is a way for a group of people to collectively purchase products from a local farm. Shares can be paid for in cash or labor, but they generally rely on a combination of both. For example, you might pay a flat fee for a 20-week share in a CSA, as well as commit to helping pass out shares one or two weekends during the season.
CSAs typically offer shares twice a year: The summer share lasts from approximately May through August, and the fall share runs from September through November. Some CSAs are even starting to offer year-round programs by adding in winter seasons that run from January to March, depending on each farm’s climate and setup.
When most people think of a CSA, they picture local fruits and veggies, but that’s not always the case. CSAs across the country also serve up meat, dairy, flowers, herbs, bread, cheese, coffee, honey—even seafood and soaps. Want to locate a share in your area? LocalHarvest, a website that spotlights organic and local food, has a listing of CSAs across the nation that are searchable by city and state.
What a Share Costs—and What You’ll Get
While prices will vary depending on where you call home, most CSAs base their fee structure on the size of the share that you select, the amount of produce (or goods) bundled into the share, and whether you offset the cost through work at the cooperative. Groups of friends—and even entire offices—may also split shares (or half shares) to help whittle down their individual bills.
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