Spring is the time to sign up for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA farmers offer a membership or vegetable subscription directly to consumers in which consumers purchase a share of the farm's harvest prior to the growing season and then receive weekly allotments of produce throughout the growing season.
Health-conscious and environmentally friendly consumers tend to be big fans of CSAs because they get to know the farmer raising their food and the methods used to grow that food. Detailed information about several central-Iowa CSAs can also be found at http://tinyurl.com/CentralIACSAGUIDE.
CSAs have benefits for both farmers and consumers. By purchasing a share of the harvest before the growing season, consumers ensure themselves a weekly allocation of fresh produce usually from spring to fall. This pre-selling increases a farmer's cash flow and helps shoulder the risk of farming. In turn, consumers get to know their farmer and receive food that is grown close to them and therefore fresher and healthier than what they can purchase elsewhere. Most CSA farmers stay in close contact with their CSA members and educate them about farming as well as the entire food system.
Get the full benefits of joining a Community Supported Agriculture group
Turtle Farm near Granger, one of central Iowa's first CSAs, has been offering shares since 1996. Farm manager Ben Saunders says, "My favorite part of operating our CSA is the connection I have with members. I know who is eating our food."
To get the full benefit of joining a CSA, Saunders recommends that members commit to preparing seasonal foods from scratch. Saunders explains that a CSA involves a different way of shopping, "Instead of purchasing food from a grocery store or farmer's market based on your meal plan, first you get the ingredients, then use your culinary creativity to plan meals based on the produce you receive that week." Most CSAs include weekly preparation tips and recipes to help consumers make the most of their vegetables. "CSA is a great way for people to get excited about food and eating right," he adds. "It is ideal for people who want to try new foods, are interested in eating seasonally and want to incorporate more healthful foods into their lives."
Saunders advises doing your homework to find a CSA that best fits your preferences. There are multiple CSAs to choose from so consider these factors before purchasing a share: Is the delivery point and time convenient? Are the growing practices acceptable (certified organic, chemical free, etc.)? Do they offer on-farm events? Do they provide references? What crops do they raise? Are there add-on options such as an extended season or an egg share? Does the farm grow everything it sells?
CSAs will be one of the exhibits at Iowa Natural Living Expo March 31-April 1
Practical Farmers of Iowa will showcase more than 10 central Iowa CSAs during a CSA EXPO being held in conjunction with the Natural Living Expo, March 31 and April 1, 2012, at Veterans Auditorium in downtown Des Moines.
Contact information for CSAs that are operating in central Iowa this year is contained in the following list. Most of the central Iowa CSAs listed below offer pick-up of produce from their farms by their customers, and also have drop-off sites in Des Moines where customers can go to get their weekly CSA produce. More detailed information can also be found at http://tinyurl.com/CentralIACSAGUIDE.