Are you interested in getting involved in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program this year? CSA programs were started by farms wanting to share their produce with their community. Instead of visiting a farm stand on the side of the road and picking out what you want, the CSA program decides what goes into scheduled deliveries for their customers. They focus on fruits and vegetables like you would find at a farmers market. What you get is based on availability and changes throughout the season. A CSA program membership allows you to add fresh food to your diet while supporting locally owned farmers and community gardens. They’re convenient for people who don’t have the time or the space for a garden of their own. If you do plan on growing a garden, CSA produce can supplement your garden with items you don’t want to grow yourself.

Each CSA program will be different, but these tips can help you choose the right program for your lifestyle.

  • CSA programs are based on shares. Members pay for a share of a farm or garden and receive scheduled deliveries of fruits and vegetables throughout the farming season.
  • Memberships can be competitive in some locations. Farms have a limited amount of produce and will cut off memberships once they max out their shares. While you might think it’s too early to find a CSA program, late winter is the time to get signed up or on a waiting list.
  • Some CSA programs require members to volunteer at the farm or garden and others don’t. Volunteering can be anything from helping out at the farm for a few hours to working at an information table during a farmers market. You’ll need to check with the CSA program you’re interested in for their membership requirements.
  • Produce from a CSA program can vary delivery to delivery. Programs typically will  give you an idea of what to expect, however weather is always an important factor in the success of harvests. Expect to still buy some produce throughout the harvest season in addition to your regular year round pantry basics.
  • CSA programs are not one size fits all. You can participate based on your needs and how many people you plan to feed with different sizes of deliveries.
  • How do you pick up your delivery? A CSA program may ask you to pick up your produce on site while others offer pick up sites and times at farmers markets or in neighborhood locations. They try to be accommodating to their members.

Being involved in a CSA program is a great way to incorporate vegetables you normally wouldn’t purchase into your diet. It’s fun to find new recipes featuring your CSA ingredients or work them into recipes you already enjoy. CSA program produce is a great way to compliment your pantry staples like white beans to create fresh and healthy meals.

To find a listing of CSA programs available near you, use localharvest.org.

Great Northern White Beans are an important part of a healthy diet

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