Joining a CSA this Winter is Fun, Easy, and Affordable — by Radiah Gaines
As we stumble through one of our coldest winters, one sure sign of relief is the ever lengthening day. Winter will soon make its way into spring, and in the blink of an eye we’ll be back in the throws of a magnificent summer, where the reward of endless days and produce awaits.
For six more weeks though, we have winter – not always an easy season to know what to make of. Many find these cold, dormant days to be tailor-made for much needed contemplation and stillness. Others continue to go, go, go, unphased by the lack of light.
What do farmers do when the winter settles in? Well, one important activity is rallying the community to support local agriculture. By connecting with people who are able to make an early investment in their farms, they access cash resources that better ensure a successful local growing season (of course Mother Nature will have her way too). When the food is harvested, these supportive investors will enjoy an overflow of produce; much more than those same dollars could ever buy at the market. Over the years, CSAs have become a popular way for farmers and the people they feed to work together.
2017 will prove to be one of the best years so far to participate in a CSA program. Why? Because farmers are thinking creatively about how they can provide the best possible product and shape CSA programs into a truly win-win experience.
Farmers take their role in helping to build community seriously. When choosing a CSA, Rick Reddaway of Abundant Fields recommends looking for a farm that provides a “visit your farm” day to CSA members. It’s joyful to see where the food we eat is grown, meet the people who grow it, and have a good time meeting others in the community that were drawn to support the same farm.
Also, farmers have been listening to the feedback they’re getting. It turns out some consumers prefer choice to quantity. The solution has been a variety of pay-ahead programs, like Credibles and Market Bucks, which allow shoppers to purchase credit ahead of time for significant discount. On market days the credit can be used just like cash with the farmer. Abundant Fields, Deck Family Farm, and Fiddlehead Farm all offer pay-ahead CSA credit programs at our Farmers Market.
It may not seem obvious at first, but participating in as many aspects of our local food system as possible contributes to close community bonds. Montavilla and its surrounding neighborhoods are made up of people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and for some of us the upfront investment of a CSA can feel cost prohibitive.
Farmers often work on tight budgets and have great empathy for the need to make a dollar stretch. Many CSAs are offered in ½ and ¼ shares along with other creative payment options. Many farmers accept SNAP benefits as payment and work-trade can also be an option. PACSAC (Portland Area CSA Coalition) is an excellent resource to learn more about local CSAs and ways to pay for them. Don’t hesitate to contact farmers to find out more about potential payment options.
Through CSAs we can nourish our bodies with good food, nourish our souls with good relationships, and nourish the land with good practices. Even for those who visit the market weekly, there are countless reasons to join a CSA. Start exploring 2017 CSA options today!
- Abundant Fields Farm (certified naturally grown) – CSA and Market Bucks
- Fiddlehead Farm (certified organic) – Credibles
- Crooked Furrow Farm
- Deck Family Farm (certified organic) – Creamy Cow Herdshare and Credibles
- Red Bird Acres (animal welfare approved) – Chicken CSA
- Denison Farms (certified organic) – CSA
- Lil’ Starts – Veggie CSA and/or Gardeners plant starts CSA
Cover photo thanks to MFM volunteer, D.L. Reamer.