Grindstone Farm's CSA display at the Pride of New York Harvest Festival, 2010
What does CSA stand for? Coffee Supply Agents? Nope. Guess again. Cake-Bakers Specialty Association? Not even close.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. But what does that mean, exactly? If you don’t know, don’t worry. The eat-local and buy-local movement is growing in our region, according to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, but most people are still not familiar with CSAs.
CSA means making an up-front, out-of-pocket investment in local farms and farmers for the growing season – and bringing home the benefits in the form of a weekly box “share” of fresh, local produce, usually from late spring to fall.
To give a shoutout to CSA farmers, encourage investment and promote tasty, homegrown food, NOFA-NY is holding a series of CSA Fairs across the state during March and April.
A Syracuse CSA Fair will be held 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (March 10) at Erwin Methodist Church, 920 Euclid Ave., Syracuse. Representatives from a dozen or more farms will be there, explaining their programs, growing schedules, pricing, pick-up and delivery options and more.
Investing in and supporting a CSA farm is something we have talked about at our house, but ultimately decided against.
The pros: We love vegetables. And we like to try new things. So we’re certain we would eat all those vegetables and freeze and/or can what we couldn’t get to. Many CSA farmers provide helpful tips and recipes, either with their shares or on their websites – or both.
The cons: Would we get tired of squash and salad greens? We love to go the farmers markets and roadside stands that dot Central New York and the Finger Lakes. Would our friends at the Regional Market in Syracuse wonder what has become of us?
As with any investment, it’s a personal decision. That’s why the CSA Fairs are a great idea. Educate yourself and ask questions. Some CSA farms offer installment payments and half-shares for smaller households. There is bound to be a CSA program to fit your needs and budget and allay any concerns.
I asked my friend Barbara, who got her introduction to CSA life last year, to share her experiences. This is what she had to say:
“We loved our CSA but we aren't doing it again this year. Our schedules are so crazy now that we're often not here at the same time for dinner. … I don't think there's anything negative at all about the experience. It's pricey ($600 this season), but if you love and use all or most of the food, it's worth it.
“I love pretty much every vegetable, so I never felt overburdened. If I was getting tired of summer squash, I just didn't pick it up that week, but it was pretty rare that I got tired of anything.
“I know that we had a healthier diet -- I was so determined to not waste that beautiful food that we ate a lot more vegetables than we would have otherwise. And there definitely are things we now eat that we wouldn't have if not for the CSA -- garlic scapes and tomatillos come to mind.
“I also just liked the experience of driving to the farm every week -- it wasn't an errand at all but something I always looked forward to. (Isn't it funny how I hate, hate, hate going to the grocery store, but I never mind going to the farmer's market or the farm?)
“Anyway -- it was definitely a great experience, and I'm going to have to kick my gardening up a notch this year.’’