Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to buy local food directly from a farmer. You purchase a “share” and become a farm “member.” You then receive a box of vegetables or other farm products regularly throughout the growing season. Some farms also offer choose-your-own or “market shares” where you can make your own box of veggies at the farm stand. However, CSA is much more than just a weekly delivery of food. CSA is a powerful investment in your health, community, and local economy. It’s a partnership between farms and consumers that keeps independent businesses thriving, helps families eat seasonal, local produce, and charges farmers and consumers with the responsibility of building a strong, equitable food system. Learn more about the history of CSA.
In general, members sign up from December-April (or until a farm fills up, which can often happen as early as March) for the coming growing season. Members pay for their share of vegetables up front (some farms offer installment payment plans, but many require full payment at enrollment) and receive a weekly or bi-weekly delivery of vegetables through the 20-28 week high growing season from May-October.
Once you’re enrolled in your farm, the real fun begins as the weekly box of freshly picked, seasonal goodies arrive in your neighborhood.
Most farms write newsletters or blogs for their membership to keep folks connected to life on the farm, introduce new veggies, and inspire new recipes and culinary adventures using all the contents of your weekly box. Opportunities abound to engage with your farm, to interact with your farmers, and to truly become a part of the farm community through on-farm events and special activities.
Do you enjoy cooking at home, or want to learn? Do you like the flavors and challenges of seasonal eating and the idea of committing to your food producers? Then CSA is right for you!
Depending on the share options your farm provides, you may be able to select your vegetables. In the a standard box, the farmer chooses the vegetables. However, some farms offer customizable shares, which allows you to pick what you get each week. Visit our farm search tool to find out what farms offer customizable shares.
Depending on your farm, you may have the option for a “Standard” share (feeds 4 healthy vegetable eaters every week), a “Half” or “Every-other-week” share (either a weekly delivery of a smaller quantity of food, or a Standard box that comes less frequently), or other variations on quantity and frequency of delivery. Additional products may be available through your farm or their partnership with their neighboring farms (eggs, honey, cheese, etc).
In addition to their high season shares, many farms employ season extension practices such as hoop houses or root cellars to offer early and late season shares. The longevity, content and delivery schedule for early and late season shares often varies significantly from farm-to-farm, so be sure to check the details of your farm’s offerings to know what you’ve signed up for!
Health insurance providers are recognizing and rewarding their members for proactive healthy choices, one being eating a healthy diet full of fresh vegetables. GHC-SCW offers $100-$200 cash rebates for purchasing fruit or vegetable CSA shares. Learn more about FairShare’s CSA Healthy Rebate Program.
FairShare’s Partner Shares Program works to reduce the barriers of CSA membership in our community by providing cost-sharing opportunities, and accepting payment plans and Quest card payments. Low-income households can get up to a $300 grant toward the cost of joining a farm.
CSA is so much more than a bag of groceries. When you think about the value of your CSA share, there’s a lot to consider. Buying directly from the farm means you are buying the very freshest, tastiest food. Vegetable varieties are grown for quality, flavor and diversity – not shelf life. CSA helps you learn where your food comes from, how it’s grown, and how to prepare it. When you join a CSA, you keep your food dollars local and support a small family farm. Becoming a CSA member means you are joining a community of conscious eaters. Invest in good, clean food and the creation of a safe, community-based food system in Southern Wisconsin!
We highly recommend purchasing one of our cookbooks:
“From Asparagus to Zucchini” is an indispensable, nationally renowned resource for people who want to make the most of local and seasonal produce. It’s packed with more than 400 recipes, and cooking and storage tips for over 50 vegetables and herbs – all in alphabetical order! Celeriac, parsnip, burdock root, fennel? No problem! Order Now!
For more information on how to choose a farm, or for assistance in using the tools on this website, please contact FairShare at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (608) 226-0300.