CSA? What’s That?

Do you know where your food comes from? Not as in which grocery store you’re buying it from, but where does the food come from before it hits the sales floor of that particular grocery store? When you’re getting your food through a CSA subscription, you don’t have to ask yourself that question—you know exactly what farm your food is coming from, and you might even have a more personalized relationship with the farmers themselves. Is it any wonder CSA programs have become increasingly popular throughout the United States over the past 40 years?

What is CSA?

CSA—short for Community Supported Agriculture—allows consumers (that’s you, the shopper) to subscribe to a recurring box of fresh fruits and vegetables from a farm. For example, ours is a weekly subscription, and unlike other models of CSA where the items are chosen for you by the farmers themselves, we pride ourselves on the unique aspect of letting you (the subscriber) pick out what you want. When you arrive at one of our convenient CSA pickup locations, you’ll be able to select from anywhere between 30 and 50 items, harvested fresh either from our farm or one of our collaborating farms within a 100-mile radius. You choose what fruits and vegetables go into your box, and you’ll select an amount based on whether you’re subscribed to a small share, large share, or jumbo share. Want more details on how it works, including some guidance on CSA etiquette? We break it all down on our Policies page.

Our 28-week season begins in April and runs through early November, offering you many opportunities to try whatever fruits or vegetables are at their peak throughout a months-long span.

History of CSA

The concept behind CSA has been around for a while. In Europe, the idea of subscribing to monthly boxes of farm-fresh food goes back nearly 100 years to the 1920s, though it really grew in popularity in the decades following World War II. It didn’t make its way to the United States until the 1980s, where the practice came to be known as Community Supported Agriculture and took off in popularity. CSA proved to be an important part of keeping small- and medium-sized farms in business as American farms became industrialized, and the efficiency and productivity of big farms increased the pressure of competition on the little guys.

CSAs are especially popular in urban and suburban areas where it’s not convenient for consumers to stop by a local farmer and select fresh produce on a regular basis. Today, there are about 12,500 farms participating in a CSA program, most popularly in New England, the Northwest, the Pacific Coast, and the Upper Midwest.

Benefits of Participating in CSA

For most people, the biggest benefit of participating in CSA is getting the freshest, highest-quality produce grown with pride, usually free from heavy pesticides and genetic modification. Although our produce isn’t organic, we do use integrated pest management so you have foods that are the safest and of the highest quality. The food tastes better and is better for you.

There are many other benefits as well. While you might think that buying locally grown foods from a small farm sounds like something that would be more expensive, the reality is that CSA programs provide food at a much lower price because you’re cutting out all the middlemen between the farmer and the grocer. This option is also much more environmentally friendly, not only because small farms tend to use healthier fertilizers and produce less waste, but also because there’s usually less transportation and packaging involved.

CSAs are an exciting way of improving your relationship with food. You might be more likely to try new fruits or vegetables you’ve never had before, or your kids will get more excited about eating their vegetables because they actually have an understanding of where they come from and how they’re grown.

Plus, these CSA subscriptions are good for the farmers. Your subscription is an upfront commitment that means we don’t have to worry about whether we’re going to be able to sell our produce at the farmers’ market—instead, you’ve already paid for it, and we know it’s going to go home to a good kitchen where it will be put to good use. We’re able to focus on doing what we love and what we’re good at — growing great fruits and vegetables.

CSAs help these farms like ours to stay in business, which is especially important considering many small farms are family owned—if they go out of business, knowledge of agriculture that’s passed down from generation to generation could be lost.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a CSA subscription and want to try it out for yourself, we have a variety of options available through Norman’s Farm Market. To learn more, reach out to us by calling 301-684-0651.