CSAs have been around for many years, but not until recently have they given it an official name! Out here in the country, we have been sharing produce between neighbors since before I was born. You could always count on J.D., the resident watermelon expert, for a fresh out of the patch slice of sugar baby. MawJane believed every person in the county needed a tomato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Drive by out here means seeing how far along the cabbage is coming in Perry’s garden. I will never forget the year of the purple hull pea bonanza. That year we got an automatic pea sheller. Sitting on the front porch, I really thought we were going places in the world. Until, Granny got her finger rolled up in the machine and production was stopped for the day to make a visit to the emergency room.
The stories could go on for days, but I will save those for later!
I kind of like our simple country definition of a CSA but if you need an official one, here it is: CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is a program designed to connect city residents with locally grown farm produce. (Or a family that has the land, but not the time to maintain a substantial garden!)
HOW ARE CSAs MANAGED?
There are several ways CSAs operate. We currently offer a farmer managed CSA which means the farmer plants, maintains, and harvests the produce without any work from the CSA member.
Don’t worry, you are not investing in the stock market! When you sign up for the CSA, you are purchasing a share of the produce grown from our farm garden. The produce in your box each week will be determined based on the produce in season that week and yields will be shared equally across the members for that week.
HALF SHARE vs. FULL SHARE
When I first started hearing about CSAs, this was a confusing concept for me because I am the type of person who does not want half of anything! Major personality problem when it is time to visit the dessert table!
Choosing a half or full share does not affect the amount of produce in your box. It determines how often you will receive a produce box! Our CSA program is a 12-week summer program. If you choose the full share option, your family will receive a box of produce every week for 12 weeks. If you choose the half share option, you will receive a box every other week for 12 weeks which will be a total of 6 produce boxes!
So which option is right for your household? This depends on a few things: how often do you include produce in your meals, how large your household is, and how open you are to trying new recipes!
For example, a family with five members who currently eat at home five nights a week or a family of two who includes vegetables in every meal for the week would be the perfect candidate for a full share. A family with five members who likes to try new recipes once a week and occasionally adds vegetables to their weekly menu would be a candidate for a half share!
I strongly encourage the full share option because I love fresh produce, but I also want families to choose the option they will enjoy the most!
WHY CHOOSE CSA OVER THE FARMERS MARKET OR LOCAL GROCERY STORE?
I love the farmers market. Let me correct myself… I LOVE THE FARMERS MARKET! I enjoy walking from booth to booth looking for fresh produce that I can use as the staple to my nightly meals. Plus, there are almost always craft vendors offering homemade soaps or trinkets that rob money from my produce fund for that day. If you have not had the opportunity to visit a farmers market, I strongly recommend you hit the first one available this summer!
So why choose a CSA membership if the farmers market is so great?
The sun, the rain, the random four season weekends in TN. You do not have to brave the weather elements to find the perfect produce for your family. In Tennessee, we jump from Spring to Summer overnight and the blazing heat is no joke! I love to shop, but sweaty shopping is not at the top of my activity list for my relaxing weekend.
Time. Who doesn’t need more time in the day or weekend? Our CSAs only require you to pick up your box each week. You have officially saved countless hours that you would use searching the market for produce. This extra time can be used spending time with our families, friends, and activities we can never seem to squeeze in our schedule!
Healthy living in the new year! A CSA encourages your family to eat healthy. Yes, I know we are all vowing to eat healthy in 2017. Gym memberships will reach an all time high on January 1st! Trust me. I have stood in the line several years to enroll in a year long membership. All jokes aside. The CSA produce box will provide your family with produce that will push you to cook healthy. In the end, you will thank me for this. I am not a great gym friend, but I will push healthy eating habits every day of the year!
Know your Farmer, Know your Food. I cannot tell you who produces the produce at the market or in the grocery store, but I can tell you who grows our produce. We have been in the farming business for over 100 years. Chester the Farmer has been providing our family and friends with produce for as long as I can remember. With a CSA, you cut out the middle man and know exactly who is producing the food you are consuming.
Locally Grown. Local in chain stores can mean grown in Tennessee or grown in California. Farmer’s markets and CSAs are mostly grown locally, but sometimes farmers choose to transport their produce or sell to farmers market vendors which complicates the local mile odometer. Our farm is less than 25 miles from our Clarksville delivery location which is pretty local to a girl who grew up 15 miles from civilization!
Grown specifically for you! CSAs are grown for our customers that we hope to build a solid relationship with. The size of our garden is based on the number of members in our CSA. Just like you know your farmer, we know our customer. My contact list of strawberry jam making women grows every year and making the beginning of the season phone call is something I look forward to! Our customers are more than customers, they are family!
CAN I AFFORD A CSA MEMBERSHIP?
Unfortunately for my poor pants, I very rarely skimp on my monthly budget when it comes to food. Good food is my weakness and greatest delight. To test if I could afford a CSA membership, I made a list of produce I buy weekly and went shopping online. If you have not tried the Walmart Grocery Pick-Up service, you are missing out on a valuable time saving moment… ESPECIALLY during the holiday season. Grocery stores, department stores, or simply any store is a mad house right now! The door should read: Complete mad house – Proceed with caution!
In my online shopping experience, I only shopped for produce. My grand total was $38.16. I must reiterate that I have a very healthy produce appetite and cook with veggies daily! With that said, our full share that is delivered to Clarksville is $300 dollars for a 12-week program.
That is 12 weeks of produce for $25 a week! For me, that saves me a little over $13 a week and over $50 a month! To some that may not seem like major savings, but for me that is $50 extra dollars to save or spend doing something I enjoy!
If you want to be part of this crazy, funny, agricultural experience we call our life, we are currently offering a 10% off discount and the option to reserve your CSA membership with a 50% down deposit. The remaining balance does not have to be paid until May!
I hope that my short (okay, I admit it’s lengthy) blog post has helped you understand how a CSA membership works and why it is a great choice for your family! Please join our mailing list for updates on the farm, current specials, recipes, and farm fun! Seriously, go sign up now! You do not want to miss out on the fun!
~The Farmer’s Daughter-