Friday, 28 February 2014 10:13

Sign Up Now For Your Share Of A Farm

By John Reardon | Home & Garden
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Even when a glance outside confirms it is still winter, farmers are already thinking about spring and planning ahead. If you are seeking a closer connection to how your food is grown and produced this year, this is a good time to consider signing up for a share of a farm’s harvest. While it may fit your lifestyle perfectly to visit the farmers’ market each week, selecting your purchases from the various vendors you see that day, some customers are interested in deepening their understanding of their food’s production. In that case, joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program can be a terrific choice: the customer’s advance payment to a farm buys a share of the harvest over several months, and creates a relationship between the customer and the farm/farmer throughout the season. There are CSA-type arrangements for a variety of farms and products. At Saratoga Farmers’ Market, for example, you can often find farm CSAs that include various combinations of vegetables, eggs, meat, flowers, fruit and baked goods. CSA programs vary in the amount of products offered; some are scaled for one or two eaters while others are family-sized. It isn’t always the size of your household that matters most in determining the program best for you. Sometimes your rate of consumption matters more. Some households find that a CSA program, combined with additional purchases from other market vendors, is convenient and provides variety. Almost always with a CSA relationship, you’ll expand your food horizons by receiving in your weekly “share” a vegetable or other farm product with which you aren’t well acquainted. You can stretch your food knowledge in this way, learning to prepare and eat foods that have not previously been everyday staples in your home. Many are concerned about the risks of investing up front in the farm, before the growing season even begins. Yet typically, even in times of difficulty, farms work to keep their CSA customers as happy as possible. The cash inflow generated through CSA memberships in the early part of the year is important to farms, as they help to cover the investments in seeds, soil enhancements and machinery at the beginning of the growing season. And, the moral support that CSA members offer the farm during the season, particularly in times of trouble, can boost the farm crew’s spirits as they handle hardships. Often, a farm offering a CSA program shares educational materials with its CSA customers about farm happenings, perhaps via an e-newsletter or blog. Recipes and preparation tips are sometimes available as well. Occasionally, special farm tours or events invite CSA customers for a visit and let them put their hands in the dirt. (Some CSAs even offer the option to work on the farm as partial payment.) Another benefit of joining a CSA is that you will learn to eat seasonally. This also happens if you shop regularly at the farmers’ market, but a CSA will really connect you with the rhythm of a given farm’s production as you receive your share of the weekly harvests. For information about CSA programs, stop by the main information table at Saratoga Farmers’ Market, or look for related literature on the tables of the various farms as you shop.
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