March 12, 2012 — Catawba River District Voices
Our farm just began its 4th season of offering CSA shares. Although that is a buzz word for many local food proponents, others look at me with a blank stare when I mention our group.
A CSA, which is also known as Community Supported Agriculture, is a cooperative arrangement between a farm and its customers. Farmers sell shares to members who will weekly pick up a box filled with seasonal food grown right there on that farm. The members pay a certain amount of money to the farmer and, in a way, assume some of the risk that goes with growing crops.
The advantage to the CSAer is that he/she is making a relationship with a particular farmer and therefore knows where their food comes from and how it is grown. Instead of going to a grocery store and picking out some tomatoes that might have been sitting on the shelf for a week, the CSA member gets tomatoes literally right off the vine. Taste is king!
A CSA member preparing the soil.
Our farm has a CSA, but with a twist. Chris and I have 4 children who have diligently worked on our farm with us. We’ve plowed and planted and weeded the fields together. We’ve harvested rows and rows and rows of tomatoes and had our share of tomato wars. But like all children, they are growing up and 2 have gone off to college. (Go Heels! Go Wolfpack! – Yes, it’s a rivalry, but we try to be civil about it.)
As our kids started venturing off, Chris and I realized we were losing our labor, too. Numerous people had indicated that they were interested in how we were growing a lot of our food, so we decided to create a “working CSA”. We asked a few families to pay a minimal amount of money, but to provide labor in the fields. In exchange they receive some of the fruits of their hard work. In addition, Chris and I teach the members about gardening and assign areas of the fields for each CSAer. One member might be in charge of the green beans for the year. He/she can pick anywhere in the garden, but they become proficient in rasing green beans. If they join the CSA the following year, that member would be in charge of a different vegetable. It’s a lot of fun as we become “experts” and share what we’ve learned, often by trial and error. Community grows along side the plants.
Some of our young CSA members planting peas.
Our Rivendell Farms CSA is full this year, but we are helping the Catawba River District to create several working CSA’s in the area. You could also talk to some local farmers and inquire if they could use some labor. Tell them that you’re willing to work for beans! (CLICK HERE for a list of CSAs around North Carolina.)