CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a membership-based agreement between you and an area ag producer, or collection of ag producers, who offer the service. Members pay on a seasonally, yearly, or an otherwise-determined schedule and they receive their share of the farm and ranches’ production on a predetermined schedule (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly). Some CSAs deliver the shares to members’ homes, while some schedule a drop place and time where products can be collected.
While you may suppose that CSAs are out of the reach of most Llano Estacado dwellers, that isn’t necessarily the case. Both Amarillo and Lubbock have area CSAs with membership availability. Check out our Local Producers page to find one near you. Business models like these can continue to grow on the High Plains with your support. When CSAs grow everyone benefits.
So what are the benefits of joining a CSA? We’re glad you asked.
You Benefit When You Know Your Farmer
Besides hitting up your local farmers’ market, there’s no better way to experience your local food shed than by joining a CSA. There’s a level of accountability and transparency you’ll really appreciate. And when it comes to putting things in your body, don’t you want a high level of accountability and transparency from producers? Joining a CSA is a great way to eat local and know your food better. Being so near the producer has the added benefit of ensuring you’ll get the best produce your area has to offer. Many vendors at farmers’ markets also participate in CSA programs, and because CSA members pay advance dues, they’ll often get the cream of the crop. Joining a CSA benefits you because you know your producers.
You Benefit Your Community Economically
When you join a CSA you’re a direct economic benefit to the farming families on the Llano Estacado. The same can’t be said for super market shopping. While local grocers are getting better about sourcing local products, the money still changes hands many times before it reaches the pockets of producers. This isn’t just a direct benefit to the farmer living on the outskirts of town. It’s a benefit to your entire community, because it fosters a degree of self-sufficiency and an economy that’s by the people and for the people. Contrast that with a corporate farm that answers to someone hundreds of miles away and doesn’t hardly feed any of its neighbors. Joining a CSA is economic empowerment for your community.
You Benefit By Saving with a CSA
You’ve heard that eating real food is expensive. It may be in the short term, but science has proven again and again that you’ll spend less money on health-related costs in the long run. But even on a more basic level CSA members get more bang for their buck, because all your dollar goes directly to the producer through membership fees, there’s no wholesaler or distributor getting a cut, there are reduced transport costs, and there are reduced admin costs. Virtually all costs are reduced leaving you with more product for every dollar spent. We’d invite you to compare. Once you’ve received a CSA box compare it (apples-to-apples) to the same bought at a local grocer or farmers’ market. It will almost always be cheaper. It doesn’t just save money though, it saves time too. You don’t have to go stand in long cashier’s lines and you don’t have to scope out vendor tables all morning at a farmers’ market. You just get your share of fresh local produce dropped to you in a very convenient way. Joining a CSA saves you time and money, and who doesn’t need more of that?
You Benefit From Variety with a CSA
Most small producers are more in tune with the soil—meaning they know how to use it best for the best effect on fruits and vegetables. Most large growers don’t operate the same way. Corporate farms practice monoculture techniques wherein they only grow a single species in a field at a time. This leads to a depletion of soil nutrients because every plant is drawing the same sustenance from the dirt around it. Most CSA-type producers rotate, grow poly culturally, and mix up their crops more for the greater benefit of keeping their soil hospitable. This means you’re likely to see a good variety of locally grown products from any CSA you’re a member of. Regularly, you’ll see strains and varieties you’ve never seen before. If you’re not already, you may become a pretty adventurous eater. Joining a CSA is a great opportunity to experience a wider variety of your regions food products.
The benefits are numerous for joining a CSA. They aren’t just personal benefits either; they’re benefits that extend to the greater community. Don’t forget to check out our area CSA resource here: Local Producers. You’ll find all the one’s we know about. And as always, don’t forget to tell the ones we’re missing by leaving a comment below.