NORTHWEST MICHIGAN—This Saturday, local farmers and eaters are celebrating a day that encourages people to purchase a share of a local farm’s harvest through a model known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Since its introduction to the United States in the 1980s, CSA has become an important model in support of local agriculture, and now includes over 6,000 farms across the country. To join a CSA, members buy a share of the harvest in the winter and spring, then get a box of local produce each week throughout the growing season. Some farms also offer other items like meat, eggs, or fruits to members.
CSA Farms of Northwest Michigan is a local organization composed of a diverse group of area CSA farms who share a common goal of providing great food to members. February 28th is the most popular day to sign up for CSA shares in the United States, and the group wants Northwest Michigan to know that it is also National CSA Sign-Up Day.
Farmers benefit when members of the community purchase CSA shares because many farming expenses occur during the off-season, long before farmers can draw on income from the summer harvest. Rather than financing these early-season costs on credit, CSA farmers can use member payments to operate their farms.
“The CSA model has allowed us to grow our small farm business. Without the sale of CSA shares in the winter, especially when our farm began, we would have been unable to buy seeds or soil amendments, or much of anything else,” Andrea Romeyn, owner of Providence Organic Farm in Central Lake, Michigan, says.
“We could not do what we’re doing without our CSA members,” Romeyn adds.
Beyond the financial relationship involved, many farmers enjoy sharing the natural beauty of their farms, teaching about their growing practices, and deepening friendships with the members of the community they serve.
Farmers aren’t the only ones benefiting from the model, however. CSA members get fresh seasonal produce offered by local farms, as well as a sense of connection with the place and the people that have grown their food. Many CSA farms also provide member education in the form of healthy cooking ideas.
“My CSA farmers have a way of empowering us to make things we normally wouldn’t try, encouraging us with their recipes, suggestions and classes,” Jen Schaap, a CSA member of Bluestem Farm in East Jordan, says.
Eaters looking to partner with local farmers in this way can find a wonderful variety of local CSA farms through www.csafarms.org, a cooperative website.