Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between a farmer and a consumer where consumers pay for a share of the farm’s planned produce upfront, usually a month or two before the growing season starts. The consumer becomes a member of the CSA business, thereby sharing in the benefits and risks of food production. This model supports the farmers by getting them the funds they need to buy seed, equipment and other essentials.
“Shareholders” receive a weekly or monthly supply of the farm’s products. Some farms offer fruits and vegetables in their shares, while others may include meat, eggs, dairy and loaves of bread. The weekly offerings will change with the season as produce becomes available.
But not every farm operates its membership the same way. Some require you to come to the farm and pick out your veggies. Some farms will harvest, wash, pack and deliver right to your door. Some CSAs will start in May and run through November, some start in June and end in August.
So it’s important to get to know your CSA options before signing up. Which is why NOFA-NY, Cornell Cooperative Extension and other agencies coordinate CSA Fairs where many regional farmers are available to talk with potential customers about their CSA model, what they grow and what’s in it for you. It’s a good way for you to make an informed choice about where to put your local food dollars this year.
We’re very fortunate that here in the Finger Lakes we have so many options. In our Local Resources section of this site, you can see just how many CSAs there are across our region. And in Canandaigua, Ithaca, Syracuse and Rochester, there are CSA Fairs planned for you to meet your farmer, make your decisions, and write a check. It’s the best investment you’ll make all year, with very edible returns.