Join a CSA to support local agriculture

Participating in a CSA program supports local farmers and helps broaden community networks.

Alia Jeraj

Last week, when I went to buy groceries, I saw the first Minnesota-grown tomatoes of the season. Their appearance — along with the sun shining on me as I walked home — reminded me that it will soon be the season of farmers markets and a regularly available plethora of fresh, local produce.
Along with farmers markets, I began to ponder whether or not I would be able to participate in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program this season.
Participating in a CSA is kind of like buying a magazine subscription — but instead of monthly gossip, you get boxes of food from a local farmer. Typically, those interested in a CSA program buy a share at the beginning of the season. In return for their investment, they get a box full of seasonal produce every week.
This arrangement benefits both the farmers and their buyers; farmers receive more financial security, and consumers get a weekly box of local produce. More than the exchange of material goods, CSAs provide the opportunity for farmers and consumers to build relationships with each other and the food they eat. 
I’d like to see more people participate in CSA programs, but one potential obstacle is that farms often ask their customers to pay for the entire season up front. While understandable, this raises concerns about accessibility, and it denies many people the opportunity to benefit from these programs. I would love to see more farms explore and embrace other payment options that would allow more people to participate in a CSA program. 
To those who are able, I strongly encourage you consider participating in a CSA this summer. More than 60 farms offer delivery  to the Twin Cities, providing a variety of ways to experience community-supported agriculture. 
Last summer, I got the opportunity to spend some time living and working on a locally owned organic farm. Our workweeks centered on how we were going to structure our CSA boxes. By Thursday, we harvested everything. Then we would create an assembly line, packing various pieces of produce into boxes that we’d drive into the Twin Cities the following day.
As I saw what went into the CSA box each week, I developed a much stronger understanding of and appreciation for the growing patterns of various vegetables. I got to know how long it takes for tomatoes to grow and how quickly squash seem to multiply. I also vastly expanded my produce palette, experimenting with kohlrabi, chard and so many varieties of squash and leafy greens.  
CSA programs create incredible opportunities for communities to support their local farmers. My experience with CSAs has given me a much deeper appreciation for the food I eat and the people who cultivate it. As food is so integral to our lives, I think we should all strive to develop deeper relationships with what we eat. CSAs offer a powerful way of doing so. 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].