Tired of fighting squirrels to protect your cucumbers ripening on their vines? Had it trying to figure out if your tomatoes have blossom end rot and what you’re supposed to do about it? Not everyone can spare the time to coax seeds into tiny plants, make sure the soil is rich and weed-free, and scare off hungry critters.
Take a break this year from tending your garden patch and throw your lot in with a farmer who knows what he’s doing by buying into community-supported agriculture (CSA). It’s not too late to get in on the ground floor, so to speak.
Community-supported agriculture began in Japan and Europe in the 1960s, a result of concerns about food safety and preserving countries’ agricultural heritage. It hopped the pond to the United States in the mid-1980s and has become an enviro-phenomenon in the last two decades.
The concept is simple, early in the year, you buy a share of a local farmer’s crops. Pricing variables include the size of your family, the length of the season, and the diversity and quantity of items in your weekly basket, but tend to run about $400-$600 per year for a two-person share.
Make sure you divide the share price by the number of weeks in the growing season to figure out a tomatoes-to-tomatoes cost. The farmer has a guaranteed market for his produce and can spread the risk of crop challenges like drought or pests. You have direct-from-farm fresh produce throughout the growing season and the opportunity to try new vegetables, participate in the farming operation, and a direct connection to your food source.
Many farmers have drop-off days at various urban locations or set aside shares for you to pick up weekly at the farm. Growing seasons are usually May to October, but some CSAs offer winter shares as well as other farm products, such as honey, meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Interested in trying one out this summer? LocalHarvest (www.localharvest.org) has a list of more than 4,600 CSAs throughout the country, many with reviews, drop-off schedules, prices, sample produce lists, and farm websites. Make sure CSA is right for your lifestyle by reading their tips for subscribers before signing up.