It may be a bit chilly in the Midwest, but it’s never to early to think about spring planting and fall harvest. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, is encouraging Iowans to consider joining a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that will give them access to fresh, locally grown produce throughout the growing season.
“CSAs are a great opportunity to partner with a farmer and share in the harvest of fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits and vegetables,” said Northey. “I know fresh Iowa grown produce may be far from mind during the cold days of winter, but it is a great time to sign-up for a CSA as it gives the farmer more time to plan for the growing season and ensure a good variety of produce for subscribers.”
Northey explained that through CSAs, farmers sell a certain number of subscriptions, or shares, and then provide a portion of their harvest to those members, typically on a weekly basis, throughout the growing season. This allows the customers to share in the farming risk as they may receive an abundance of produce during good growing years, but less when there are difficult growing conditions. Iowa has seen significant growth in the number of CSAs, growing from 50 in 2006 to more than 90 in 2012.
Once you join, members typically receive a box or bag of fresh produce, but some farms may offer other products such as eggs, honey, baked goods, meat, herbs, or flowers. Most CSAs arrange convenient delivery sites for weekly pickup. In many cases, farmers will invite customers to visit the farm to learn more about their operation, a great educational tool for consumers who would like to learn more about where they food comes from. In addition, some farmers also offer discounts to members who work on the farm during the growing season.