- Category: Blog
- Published: Thursday, 27 February 2014 15:45
- Written by Jack Wilbur
- Hits: 1927
The annual Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Open House in late February, gave about 350 local residents a chance to meet representatives from 15 different farms and sign up for a share of the harvest with the farm of their choice.
The event, sponsored by the Great Salt Lake Resource Conservation and Development Council, and co-sponsored by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s Utah’s Own program and Communications Office, is a great way for consumers to shop now for a season’s worth of produce and other local farm products, while supporting local farms.
CSA is a partnership between consumers and individual farms or small groups of farms. Consumers pay for their harvest share up front, at the beginning of the season. In return, they receive a weekly share of the harvest that is ripe each week, for a set number of weeks during the growing season.
Because CSA programs can vary from farm to farm, the open house provides a valuable comparison shopping experience. For those who didn’t make it to the open house, but might be interested joining
a CSA this year, the CSA Utah website has descriptions from each of the farms about their programs and offerings. www.csautah.org. Click on the find a CSA tab to learn about each of the farms listed.
For those of you who haven’t participated in a CSA before, UDAF has a few tips to help you be a discriminating shopper:
- Cost/quantity—Share prices can vary between farms, as can the amount of produce you get in a share. Many first time CSA shareholder have said they were surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of produce they received, especially during peak harvest season. Ask the farm how many varieties and how much of each variety you are likely to receive.
- Ask if they provide sample recipes, especially for items with which you may not be familiar.
- Where are the drop off/pick up locations? Or do they deliver to your home for an extra fee? Most farms drop produce shares to central locations and you pick up from one of those locations. Do they have a location that is convenient to you. A few farms will deliver for an extra fee. But central pick up locations is the standard scenario.
- What do they grow? Most CSA farms grow tomatoes and zucchini, but some also focus on greens, some grow a lot of root crops, carrots and beets, some grow a lot of storage crops, like potatoes, garlic, onions, and winter squashes. Some grow their own tree fruit or supply it from another local farm.
- Growing techniques. If organic is important to you, ask the farmer if they are certified organic or growing using only natural fertilizers and pest control. Some grower use integrated pest management, in which chemicals are used as more of a last resort.
Most CSA farms start their spring or summer seasons in May or June. There is still plenty of time to sign up for the season.