With the CSA Fair coming up this Saturday, we wanted to make sure that you had all of the information you might need regarding CSAs.
The CSA Fair takes place during the Urbana Business Association’s Market IN the Square on Saturday, March 7. The CSA Fair allows community members to learn about the various Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs being offered by different farms in the area. Visitors can talk directly to farmers to find out what products they offer through their CSA, how their CSA is set up, and what payment options and plans are available. The event is free to attend, and visitors are encouraged to shop from the regular market vendors while at the CSA Fair.
Visitors that speak with each of the CSA Fair vendors and get their CSA Fair Passport signed by all of them will be entered into a drawing for some fabulous local gift bags full of products and offerings from the vendors at the Fair. Common Ground Food Co-op will also be handing out free samples of local products for visitors to try. In addition to all of this, Common Ground will be hosting its annual Seed Swap in the hallway just outside their mall entrance.
The CSA Fair is co-hosted by The Land Connection, Urbana Business Association, Urbana Market IN the Square, Common Ground Food Co-op, and Urbana Market at the Square.
1: In your own words, what is a CSA?
A CSA is a mechanism that farmers and producers use to generate the initial capital to start their growing season or help them get through the winter. It’s the Capital Campaign or Public Offering of the local food system. Farmers, in a sense, develop an investment fund that community members can invest in and then receive dividends from throughout the year, except instead of getting cash back you get fruit, vegetables, flowers, meat, eggs, mushrooms, dairy, bread, and more. It depends on the producers or farms that you’re investing in.
2: So, is a CSA similar to a subscription box?
It is in the sense that it comes in a box, but that’s the only commonality. Some CSA’s don’t come in a box at all. CSA subscriptions are incredibly diverse from producer to producer, but they aren’t built around a specific meal or dish like most subscription boxes are. Also, subscription box services are not sourcing locally produced or raised products, so any money you spend on them is not having a positive impact on the economic development of your local community.
3: Will these be delivered straight to my door?
That’s a good question. Some CSAs do offer home delivery as an option, but many don’t. Typically, there are weekly or bi-weekly pick-up locations on the farm or at a central location near a large group of CSA subscribers.
4: What kind of CSAs have been available in the past?
There are CSAs that offer flowers, eggs, meat, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, fruit, tinctures, health and beauty products, and much more. Some producers offer membership programs where you get weekly deals and discounts instead of a typical CSA share structure and others offer a “pick what you want” format where you build your own box each week. There are tons of different options and the best way to learn about them all is to visit with each of the vendors at the CSA Fair and find out for yourself.
5: Can I manage the frequency and the size of my subscription?
Again, this will depend on the producer and the system they’ve set up, which is why it’s so important to shop around and see which producers offer the options that are best for you. Many producers will offer “half-shares” or “full-shares,” with the half-shares costing less and including less product than the full-shares. Producers may also offer shares with a different frequency of delivery instead of different sizes. For example, some shares might get product every week, while a less expensive share might get product every other week. It all comes down to how the farm has set up their CSA program.
6: How does this service impact local farmers and businesses?
It provides farmers with capital upfront for products that they can grow, raise, or produce and then deliver later. It also encourages community members to regularly engage with the farmers or producers that are getting shares from which is important to the sustainability of the local food movement. It builds a community around locally produced food and connects people to where their food comes from, even if they aren’t able to make it to a farmers market every week.
7: Should I cancel my Hello Fresh or Blue Apron subscriptions? As a consumer, what’s the benefit of getting this locally?
That is completely up to you. Some consumers just don’t want to support local businesses or family-owned farms that exist right in their own communities. They don’t want to be able to talk to the person that grew their tomatoes or raised their chicken. They don’t care to know what farming practices are used in the production of their food. They don’t want to feel that connection or sense of community. They don’t want to have to be creative in the kitchen or learn how to cut up kohlrabi. Taking the time to find something locally and in-season means that you care, even if just a little bit, about one of these things. These are just some of the benefits of getting your food locally.
8: What’s the average cost of a CSA?
Again, that varies greatly. Some are in the $100-$400 range, while others are in the $500-$1,000 range and higher. It depends on the kind of product you’re getting, the share size, frequency, and any add-ons you might have. The best thing you can do is shop around and get a sense of all of the different options. That’s why events like the CSA Fair are so beneficial because they allow consumers to compare all of the available local options in one place and meet all of the farmers and ask them any questions they may have.
9: Are we able to invest in a CSA as a group?
Absolutely! That is one way that people can support local without spending a ton of money. If you get a group of friends together and get a share for you all to split, you’ll pay a fraction of the cost and get a chance to see if you like the system and what the various farms offer. It’s especially useful to invest as a group for meat CSAs as they are the most expensive but offer discounts the more you buy, plus you can just freeze what you get until you want to use it.
10: Where can I learn more information?
Come to the CSA Fair during UBA’s Market IN the Square at Lincoln Square Mall on Saturday, March 7 from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. You can also check out the event page on Facebook. If you have any questions, feel free to email Taidghin O’Brien at The Land Connection at firstname.lastname@example.org.