James’ Post: How Does a CSA Work?

Shopping around the farmers’ market, you may have heard about CSAs and Seacoast Eat Local’s amazing 3:1 CSA match program for SNAP/EBT users. But what exactly is a CSA, and why should you be interested?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This is a program between a farm and a consumer where the consumer will pay, in advance, for a share of the crops for the season. What this means is that the pre-payment will allow the consumer to pick up a specified amount of produce at a frequency/duration determined by the farmer. This can lead to produce discounts in the long run, as buying that same amount of produce weekly would be more expensive. Pricing, quantity, and frequency of CSA boxes vary by farmer, so it is important to talk to farms about their specific programs. Another thing to keep in mind is asking the farmer what kind of produce you will be expecting throughout the harvest, as expected product lists may vary and some farm CSAs may have options to add on meats, eggs, flowers or other products.

A CSA might be easier to understand with an example. So, let’s say you are interested in purchasing a CSA share. You talk with the farm you are interested in, and agree on a share. You would pay the farmer upfront, and then during the harvest season, you pick up a box of various fresh produce every week!

Sounds great, right? It is! CSA boxes encourage seasonal, local eating, while emphasizing produce consumption. Sometimes, CSA boxes can even get to be a bit too many vegetables, but that’s where your freezer will help. Freezing produce can be a great way to quickly get dinner on the table for unexpected busy nights long after the growing season.

But what about the 3:1 SNAP/EBT matching program? Well, SNAP users are eligible for increased assistance in purchasing CSAs. Each SNAP customer participating in a CSA will have the option to pay for 1/3 of the total CSA cost with their SNAP card over 1-3 months. The FINI funded fruit and vegetable coupon program, Granite State Market Match, will cover the remaining cost of the CSA. For more information about how the program works, e-mail Shelly at shelly@seacoasteatlocal.org.

Check out www.seacoastharvest.org to find farms that offer CSA subscriptions, and to see a harvest calendar which offers examples of typical produce you might find in your CSA box or visit the next Winter Farmers’ Market from 10am-2pm on February 24 at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford NH to visit our CSA Days fair. If you purchase a CSA in full at the market, you will receive a free cookbook!

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