Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs

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Nowadays, you may be taking fewer trips to the grocery store to practice good social distancing.  More than ever, people are looking into alternative ways of shopping, ordering food, and eating in general. A great way to do this and support your local economy is through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program. CSA programs are a convenient way to access locally grown, seasonal produce, and food items. You may even try some new fruits and vegetables! Squash anyone?

By participating in a CSA program, you can:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Support your local community
  • Access freshly harvested produce
  • Support farmers and producers in your area
  • Cut down on food waste
  • Save money
  • Spend less time in the grocery store

What is a CSA Program?

CSA programs allow consumers to purchase locally grown, seasonal produce, and food items directly from farmers in the community. CSA programs provide a way to connect with your community through food and those that harvest it. So how does it work?

Shares: A farmer or producer offers a certain number of “shares,” that the public can purchase. These shares can consist of anything from fruits, vegetables, eggs, herbs, meats, and other items from the farm. Customers typically get to decide which type of share they want to purchase for the season. Shares can range from a smaller personal size to a larger family size portion – every CSA program and producer offers something unique!

Purchasing: When purchasing from a CSA program, you may be required to pay up-front before the season begins. Some CSA programs also offer “pay as you go” plans during the growing season with no initial investment required.

Receiving: There are a few options for receiving your box or bag of goodies. Some CSA programs have set drop-off locations with a specific time and place to meet (weekly, monthly) to pick-up your produce. A popular pick-up point can be the farmer’s markets and the farms themselves. Other CSA programs are contact-less with direct shipping to your front door (or workplace)!

CSA Programs During a Pandemic

Navigating the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, leading us to make some changes when it comes to the way we eat and shop. Most of us have been practicing social distancing and limiting our time spent grocery shopping. During this time, CSAs have been stepping up their game to accommodate consumers by making more home deliveries and offering add-on items like wheat, flour, and oils.

The safety of our food is a big concern for all of us. Whether you are getting produce at the store or through a CSA, it is important to follow the proper protocols.

Food Safety: The FDA has stated that there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging that is associated with the transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. However, we do know that the virus can survive on certain surfaces. Always wash your hands and properly clean and disinfect your home to reduce the spread of germs and contamination.

Proper Washing Techniques

  1. Always wash your hands before handling food for at least 20 seconds under running water with soap.
  2. Clean and disinfect areas where food is prepped.
  3. Clean produce using cool tap water (no soap).
  4. Know which foods to wash.
    • Fruits and vegetables with edible peels (apples, grapes)
    • Fruits and vegetables with inedible peels (bananas, avocados)
    • Can and jar lids (soups, sodas)
    • Raw meats (chicken, beef, pork, poultry)
    • Fish
    • Eggs
  1. Clean and disinfect areas where food has been prepared.

How to Choose a CSA

Participating in a CSA can be a wonderful way to expose yourself to new produce and support the community. It is important to keep these things in mind before signing up:

  • Will I be able to use these items?
  • Can I commit to a growing season?
  • Am I open to NEW food items?
  • What can I do if there are extra food items?
  • Do I have time to cook?

 Once you have made the decision to participate, you can connect in several ways:

  1. Local Harvest: Simply type in your zip code and learn about the CSA programs, farms, and co-ops in your local area.
  2. USDA Local Food Directories: Connect with CSA programs, farmers markets, and food hubs in your area based on zip code.
  3. Farmers Markets: If you are already shopping at a farmer’s market, take the time to ask if they offer a CSA program that you can join.

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