Winter in Eastern Pennsylvania is on the wane, and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative is rolling out its spring / summer CSA subscriptions. Featuring seven mix-and-match options, including full and half shares, fruit, cheese, egg, and medicinal plant shares, the nonprofit co-op, which represents more than seventy-five Lancaster County organic farmers, is offering discounts to families who sign up before February's end.
Community Supported Agriculture, which has been a feature of the American organic food movement for about thirty years, provides a method by which consumers can contract directly with producers of vegetables, meat and dairy. Payment to a CSA ensures that farms' operating costs will be met up front, and in return for that investment, buyers receive weekly boxes of the freshest seasonal food available.
It serves as a complement to farmer's markets and traditional bricks-and-mortar food stores, says Alex Jones, buying manager for Fair Food Philadelphia's Farmstand in the Reading Terminal Market, which is also a pickup point.
"We host the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA at the Fair Food Farmstand not just because we have a great relationship and compatible mission," she says, but "because we know we're attracting like-minded consumers to our stand. A pickup spot like the Farmstand serves those members by providing them with a one-stop opportunity to purchase additional sustainably and locally sourced items that may not be included in their share."
But a share can also be a near-comprehensive source of groceries on its own. Linda J. Lee, longtime Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA subscriber, says that she has often "gotten various add-on shares of pastured eggs, meat, milk, yogurt and cheese -- and once I split half a hog with some friends!"
"The flavor," Lee says, "has been incredible. Out-of-season tomatoes and peaches from the supermarket hold no appeal anymore."
The Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA features more than forty pickup sites across Pennsylvania, as well as sites in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. Deliveries begin for Philadelphia residents the week of May 6, and continue for 25 weeks, into autumn. Full shares include 9-12 varieties of vegetables, weekly. While half shares include 4-7.
The 2013 spring / summer CSA application is available online.
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