Imagine coming home with a farm-fresh basket of local organic veggies every week without the sticker shock! Welcome to the world of Community Supported Agriculture, also known as a CSA. You may have heard of them but wonder, how the heck do they work?
In short, a CSA is a share of a particular farm's crops for the growing season. They are usually broken down into a spring and summer season, and you can sometimes have the choice of signing up for one or both. Payments are due ahead of time (some farms accept payment plans) and a typical CSA runs about $25 a week for a basket of fresh veggies. Most CSAs in Atlanta have a weekly pickup scheduled at a pre-disclosed location.
OK, sounds great, right? But there can be some drawbacks. First, it's a pretty high up-front cost ($400-$500 is typical for both seasons) and the crop is not guaranteed. As with all investments, there is risk involved. If it's a bad growing season the crop will not be as bountiful and that will be reflected in your weekly basket. There's also no choosing what comes each week ... even if you hate arugula you might face it every week for a month (pesto, anyone?).
That said, the pros can far outweigh the cons. You get to experiment with new vegetables, even ones that look like they come from alien planets (ahem kohlrabi) and it definitely takes you out of your grocery comfort zone. If you think you might have difficulty eating all the veggies every week, split your bounty with a friend or just switch off every week. And most importantly, you're helping out a local farmer. What can be better than that?
Now, how do you go about finding a CSA? If you live near Cabbagetown, check out the Ladybug Farms CSA. Pickup is Tuesday nights at The Stacks (click here for signup information). You can also check with restaurants in your neighborhood like Dynamic Dish in Old Fourth Ward that use local produce, they should be able to point you in the direction of a CSA farmer. Still not sure where to go? Check Georgia Organics for a list of CSAs near you.
But act soon! CSAs usually start delivering in May just as the flowers start to bloom ... so get to it!