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What is a CSA?

I’m back!  It’s after April 1st, which means SPRING time in Wisconsin.  After this past winter, the warmer weather and sunshine could not come fast enough.

Next winter, I promise to try and post at least a couple of times (more posts during the winter will focus on recipes and during the summer posts will focus on gardening/preserving), but now that spring is here you can expect to hear a lot more from Understanding Food!

Just yesterday, my husband brought a local CSA to my attention.  Although I had heard of CSA’s in the past, I hadn’t really taken the time to learn what they are all about and if it is something that would be right for me and my family.

So, before I took a look at what this specific CSA entailed, I wanted to know what CSA’s were in general.  I am hoping this post will not only help me to understand, but you as well.

The straightforward answer to what CSA stands for is that it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”.  What that means will take a bit more explanation.

Essentially consumers (like myself) pay a certain amount of money at the beginning of the growing season to the farmer doing the growing.  Think of the payment as a purchase of shares in the farm’s “stock”.  In exchange for your stock funds, you will receive a share of the produce grown for that year.  Just like with stocks, you can never predict how successful (or unsuccessful) a growing season may be.  Mother nature will definitely be the key determinate of how much your stock earns you for the season.

Now, I do not want to make CSA’s sound like a risky investment of your money!  The above was just meant as an anology.  From everything I have read, and now believe, CSA’s are an extremely beneficial thing to participate in.  Each week, as a member of the CSA, you will get a share of the grown bounty. The farmer will determine what is in the share each and every week. 

Both the consumer and the farmer benefit from the CSA in the sense that the consumer is allowed a steady supply of freshly grown, local produce and the farmer has a known outlet (and income) for the produce.  The risk to the consumer is that you do not know exactly what will be in your share each week (and may need to be willing to try new foods) and the farmer’s risk is that they have to back up their guarantee to provide said fresh produce in each week’s share.

The cost to participate in a CSA will vary from region to region, but it can be a significant upfront investment to consider and plan for.  Some CSA’s will offer payment plans, so it may be worth searching out one with this type of option if it will help you to be able to participate.

Each week (or every other week if your CSA offers half shares), you will go to your determined pick-up place and receive your share of produce.

If you live in the Madison, Wisconsin area, the CSA that we are planning on joining is the JenEhr Family Farm CSA.  You can visit their website to read more (and I will be sharing more about them as the CSA starts).

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