My husband and I run a 50-member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program at Tumbleweed Farm, our six-acre organic vegetable farm in rural Oregon. A CSA is a unique relationship between farmer and consumer. Essentially, members who join are pledging to support their farmers through thick and thin.
And if you want that kind of relationship with your farmer, then now — right now! — is the time to commit.
A relationship with a farmer is a risk — there could be a drought, disease, or flood — but more times than not, members get to reap the benefits of a good harvest and receive a variety of produce. The farmers and their members truly become a "family" of sorts, and it's a beautiful relationship.
CSAs Are for Fall Too
But here's the thing: You don't have to wait until the spring to join a CSA. In fact, you shouldn't. A lot of farmers offer fall/winter shares, and it's a great time of the year to eat local produce — root vegetables, squash, hearty greens, and herbs are in abundance.
It's also a great opportunity to support a local farmer because the winter is when farmers begin to purchase seeds, compost, and equipment for the upcoming season. Money is typically tight on farms this time of year, which is why fall CSAs are so important to farmers. Besides, when you're part of a CSA, you don't have to worry about where your food is coming from, and you can feel pretty darn good about supporting your local food chain.
The Benefits of a Fall CSA Share
Joining a CSA might also inspire you to cook with new and exciting ingredients. A lot of CSA farmers include "recipes of the week" to help motivate members to cook through their boxes. On our farm, a lot of our customers will text us photos or email pictures of the meals they make with our produce and it means the world to us to see our hard work turned into a beautiful meal on someone's dinner table.
Now that we're in the thick of the fall harvest, our members are receiving a lot of root vegetables and hearty greens. Last week it was all about daikon radishes and bok choy, and our recipe of the week was a simple daikon radish and soba noodle salad with fried eggs.
Spring or Fall — Now Is the Time to Join a CSA
However, regardless of how you feel about fall foods, this is the right time to join a CSA. If you simply want to join the next spring and summer growing season, now is when farmers are looking for members to sign up. It's that investment, you see, that carries the farm through the winter and early spring business of nourishing and planting for the next crop. We typically sell out of our upcoming season's shares by mid-December, so if you are fantasizing about the abundance of the summer harvest and want to support your local community, definitely sign up for next season now.
If you're toying with the idea of joining a CSA, whether it's for a fall share or simply to get in on the next season, I encourage you to take the leap. Look into the farms that are in your neck of the woods and reach out to see what the options are. This is a great opportunity to support your community and get to know the folks who grow your food.
Cheers to the fall harvest!