When you join a farmshare (or CSA - Community Supported Agriculture), you are investing in that farm for the season. This usually involves paying the farmer in advance, and in exchange, receiving a share of the harvest over the course of the growing season.
But there is more to it than that, of course! Here are some considerations and information to give you a better idea of what to expect in joining a farmshare program.
You will want to signup between February and May - the sooner, the better! In CSA theory, shareholders pay the full cost of their share at signup, but in practice, CSA farms have developed payment plans so that paying in installments is not a problem.
What can you expect to pay? This first depends on your share size. Every farm is a little different, but you can typically expect two options:
According to ACORN's annual survey of CSA farms, the average CSA runs for an 18-week season and the average share costs:
Share prices and sizes do vary from farm to farm, so be sure to check what the farm is offering.
Farms also vary in terms of the variety of product they offer, and of course the locations that they serve. If you have more than one farm presenting convenient pickup options for you, then consider how adventurous you are: do you want only staple vegetables, or are you willing to try some new foods?
Your farm will communicate with you (usually through a weekly newsletter) to let you know what to expect in advance of each pickup.
You'll pick up your share at a central community spot at a convenient time. A few farmshare programs are starting to select pickup locations that offer cooler space so that you can get your share at a time even more convenient for you. Some even offer home delivery (for a fee).
Each week you will have good, whole food to cook with. Yes, cook! There can be an overwhelming amount at times, but many seize the opportunity to be creative in the kitchen, share the abundance with family or friends, or put by some food for winter. Check out our Resources for tips on preserving and other ways you can make the most of your share.
Be sure to let your farmer know how you enjoyed the farmshare program or what you felt could be improved. You can also provide your feedback in ACORN's annual CSA Shareholder Survey, which provides anonymous feedback to CSA farms, in addition to providing us all with a better understanding of the Atlantic CSA movement! Check out the latest summary report to hear what existing CSA members are saying.
"The best part of being a CSA member is meeting with the people who produce the food face-to-face, and not having to step foot in a supermarket to buy produce. I like that I know where my food is coming from...and I'm challenged to find new ways to use vegetables that I may not have cooked with before."
"I love getting our box each week and then getting to figure out how I can turn it into appropriate meals for us. We eat way healthier this way and we eat things that we otherwise never would have!"
"I never thought I would hear a 9-year-old say, 'Yes, brussel sprouts with squash sauce!' They know where their food comes from and they really feel like they are a part of it."