By Carol Tashie and Dennis Duhaime
Despite the wintry cold weather, your local farmers are gearing up for spring. Most of us have already started seeding onions, early greens, and even artichokes, while many of us are tending and harvesting the winter greens still flourishing in our high tunnels. Winter may be in full bloom, but spring will start blossoming before we know it.
Farmers are also starting to accept registrations for the upcoming CSA farm share season, which makes it the perfect time to consider if a farm share is right for you and your family.
CSA, also known as a farm share, stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is an arrangement that connects farmers and eaters in a mutually beneficial relationship. Share members receive a full season’s worth of the freshest and most delicious food possible and farmers receive an upfront financial investment in their farms.
But a farm share is so much more than just a business transaction. It is the start of a long-lasting connection to your food and the people who grow it.
When you join a CSA you are no longer just a farmer’s customer, the veggies you eat are no longer just purchases. You become a part of the farm’s community, developing an almost familial relationship with the people, the land, and the food. Purchasing a share means you “buy into” the farm and the farm “buys into” you.
Farm shares vary in size, price, and scope, allowing you to determine what is right for your budget and appetite. Some farm shares offer free choice, giving share members the ability to pick and chose what they want when they want it; others generously divvy up the week’s harvest and provide their share members with an ever-changing diversity of ultra-fresh food.
Depending on the CSA, shares can be picked up at the farm, the local farmers’ market, or, in some instances, delivered to area businesses or even members’ homes. Some farms offer veggies, others offer meats, cheeses, and eggs. All farm shares offer you the best Vermont has to offer.
So how do you know if a farm share is right for you?
First, consider your family’s eating habits. Are you, or do you want to become, big vegetable eaters? Do you like a variety of veggies and are you excited to occasionally try something new? Do you like to cook? Happy farm share members generally answer yes to most or all of these questions.
Next consider your budget. Most farms ask members to pay for at least part of their share prior to start of the harvest; this advance capital allows the farmer to purchase seeds, soil amendments, and other infrastructure needs. In return, share members receive a generous amount of food for their upfront investment in the farm.
Lastly, are you willing to accept the shared risk that goes hand-in-hand with the shared benefits of being a farm share member? Each year, on every farm, there will be superstar crops and some that are less than stellar. Members share the joys, as well as the disappointments, with the farmer.
Once you decide to join a CSA, you should consider which farm is right for you. Talk to your neighbors and friends and get recommendations from other share members. Visit the farm’s website to learn about growing practices, location, and size, scope, and cost of shares. Chat directly with the farmer; most of us love to talk about our farms and are happy to help you decide if our CSA is right for you.
For a complete listing of CSA farms in the Rutland area, check out RAFFL’s locally grown guide (http://www.rutlandfarmandfood.org/guide/). For a statewide list, visit NOFA’s website (http://nofavt.org/).
As farmers, we believe that share members play an important role in keeping Vermont’s farms vital and vibrant, while positively impacting the health and wellbeing of their own families and communities. Each year we are excited to celebrate our returning share members and welcome new members into our farm community. If you decide a CSA is right for you, you too will experience the benefits of a healthy relationship to your food and your farmers.
And now it’s time to get back to seeding.
Carol Tashie is a RAFFL board member and owns Radical Roots Farm with Dennis Duhaime. They grow vegetables for their CSA farm share members, Rutland’s Farmers’ Market, and local restaurants and schools. To learn more about their farm visit http://www.RadicalRootsVT.com or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.