It's Not Too Late to Join a CSA
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association explains the benefits of Community Supported Agriculture.
- By: Melissa White Pillsbury
If you think you're too late to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm this season, think again. A season's worth of farm fresh food awaits you at more than 30 farms across the state.
If you're new to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept, here's what you need to know: CSA is a way for consumers to buy products directly from a farm, but in a way that shares both the risk and reward of farming with the farmer. Farmers set up CSAs differently, but the traditional situation is for a farmer to offer a 'share' of the coming season's harvest for a set price, to be paid at some point before the season begins. This gives the farmer some capital at a time of the year when, typically, farmers have to take out loans to pay for seasonal startup costs like seeds and fertility inputs. In exchange for this commitment from the consumer to support the farm's operations for the season, the farmer commits to providing, to the best his or her ability (barring acts of God), a diverse selection of high quality, fresh, nutritious, and often chemical-free produce on a weekly basis throughout the season. A 'typical' summer vegetable share will run from late May or early June through October, and will be of a volume intended to provide the weekly veggie needs of a family of four omnivores. However, many farms offer multiple share sizes. Shares are typically picked up from the farm on a designated day, but some farms deliver within a certain distance of the farm, or offer their shares at the farmers' markets they attend.
There are many variations on this theme, and farmers are getting creative in the ways they incorporate this concept into their individual operations. Examples include Winter shares, typically comprised of a monthly or bi-weekly pickup of root cellar vegetables, but sometimes include frozen, canned or otherwise preserved veggies from the summer harvest; Holiday shares, which make up everything you'd need for a holiday feast, right down to the fresh turkey and cranberry sauce; Dairy shares of milk, cream, butter or even ice cream! And now the community supported food concept is spreading beyond the farm to bakeries, fisheries, and, in one case an aquaculture operation producing tilapia.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) publishes The Maine CSA Directory (available free online at www.mofga.org), which contains detailed information about each of the CSA plans at farms in Maine. To date, there are 107 CSAs in the directory, a number which has gone up from about 90 a year ago, and from about 75 two years ago. The precise number is a moving target, as new information about CSA's is received on a fairly regular basis.
Since I started doing work tracking and collecting information about CSA's about two years ago, I have noticed not only the growing trend in the number of CSAs and new CSAs planned for the future, but also a growing awareness and interest from the consumer side about this concept and how one can get food from local farms. The Maine CSA Directory, then, is an increasingly important resource for farms to use for advertising the availability of shares of food from their farm, and for local food seekers to use as a guide for what is available to them in their area.
In a recent survey of CSA farms, I found that more than 30 of the 107 CSA farm programs still had shares available for this season. Area farms are listed below, and more information about each can be accessed from the MOFGA website (www.mofga.org). I'm happy to help with information about available shares. Contact me at (207) 568-4142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Money tight? Many farms have flexible payment options for those who can't afford a lump sum payment in the spring. Farmers understand cash flow problems as well as anyone, and no farmer I've ever met wants to see a family go without the same fresh, nutritious foods that their own family enjoys.
Local farms have an incredibly important role to play in food security, and every community that has a farm producing and selling food to the community is very fortunate to have that resource available to them and should do everything they can to make sure that resource doesn't go away. CSA is a way to help farms stay viable and keep on farming long into the future.
Farms With CSA Shares Available as of May 2008
Listed by county where farm is located. Certified organic farms are highlighted in bold text. Find detailed information about each farm & the type of shares available by going to www.mofga.org and click on Community Supported Agriculture in Maine under the Resources tab:
Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown food." If there are other articles on other parts of the site that you want to reprint, just let me know. Our freelance writers retain all rights, so we'd have to check with them. If a MOFGA staff person wrote the article, we'd just have to check with MOFGA. Heather Spalding (email@example.com) is the contact person at MOFGA.
- By: Melissa White Pillsbury