In my last column, we visited about the "locavore" movement and eating locally. This week I'd like to suggest another local option, Community Supported Agriculture. What is CSA? The USDA defines CSA as a "community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production." In Minnesota, CSA is quickly becoming a popular way for consumers to purchase their produce directly from the farmer.
The Minnesota Grown Directory currently lists 42 CSAs across the state. How does CSA work? In a CSA, farmers pre-sell a set number of shares for a growing season (typically June-October). During this season, members receive a weekly delivery of seasonal mixed produce. Type of produce is dependent upon what is currently growing on the farm to which you belong.
This is a rewarding system for both consumers and farmers. The farmer can market his produce early in the season before the long, hard work of summer begins. The consumer gets ultra-fresh food, develops a relationship with their grower and usually gets to visit the farm at least once a season.
Ploughshare Farm, located in Parkers Prairie, is a successful, local CSA, and was named "Edible Twin Cities" Local Hero for 2009 in the Best Farm/Farmer category. Ploughshare Farm offers three share options to consumers: a summer share, a storage share and a frozen winter share. The summer share, running from June 4 to Oct. 8, weather permitting, delivers seven to 25 pounds of 10 to 15 varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables weekly in a variety of locations. If you purchase a storage share, you will receive three deliveries of root vegetables, winter squash and assorted greens from late October to mid-December. A winter frozen share includes a total of 120 packages of blanched, frozen vegetables. Each package is about a three serving size meal. Ploughshare has eight drop off sites across central Minnesota and the Twin Cities. For pricing and membership information, visit them on the Web at: www.ploughsharefarm.com/.
Remember, buying locally grown meat and produce is an investment in the economic, social and environmental well being of your community. It reduces the distance your food travels from farm to table, ensures maximum freshness and nutritional values, and offers unique variety and healthy food choices. For more local options, consult the Minnesota Grown Directory produced by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It is available online at www.minnesotagrown.com.
Until next time, happy gardening!
"If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week."
--"Oily Food", Steven L. Hopp