CSA registration a tasty membership
With a mild winter almost behind us, and spring – whatever that may look like weather-wise –mere weeks away, it’s hard not to think about the fresh fruits and veggies that are once again going to be available in the warmer months. And while some greens – including broccoli, spinach and arugula – are available now, the upcoming warmer seasons offer months and months of locally grown vegetables, berries, peaches and more. And what better way to enjoy those locally grown feasts than by joining a CSA and picking them up fresh each week?
For those who don’t know, CSA is a term coined by Robyn van En. At its simplest, it means “community supported agriculture,” as in the community supports the farms in the beginning of the year by investing in the harvest. The consumer takes a risk when investing in a CSA at the beginning of the season, just as the farmer does each year, so the relationship becomes more than that of seller and buyer.
In addition to participating in farmers’ markets and on-farm markets, farmers that offer CSAs allow yet another time for farmer and consumer to be face to face, whether they pick their bounty up at the farm or at remote pick-up sites.
The benefit to the upfront investment, which can range from $500 (on average $25 per week, depending upon the number of weeks in the season) and up, is the consumer gets to reap the rewards weekly during the season.
For Fifer Orchards out of Camden-Wyoming, that means May to September. For Greenbranch Farm in Salisbury that means May to November. And for Taylor’s Fresh Organics, near Federalsburg, Md./Bridgeville, Del., the season starts in May, as well. Each CSA will have its own season and its own vegetables and fruits that they offer. Some also offer poultry, meats, flowers and bread, either as part of the CSA packages or in separate CSA plans.
Depending upon the CSA people choose, there are plenty of both old favorites and new vegetables that might come in a weekly CSA share.
The spring and fall offer a variety cold-loving greens and root vegetables, such as Swiss chard, cabbage, lettuce, radish, salad turnips, beets, potatoes and strawberries, while the summer is generally full of fruits – by the botanical definition: squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, melons, berries, peaches and more.
In the fall, it is much of the same veggies as in spring, plus broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potatoes, to name a few.
Alas, there is always the risk of weather and crop damage that can affect what is available and how much of it, but even that is central to the idea of CSAs, where variety and quantity are at the whim of Mother Nature. The variety of crops also encourages members to get creative in the kitchen, as it’s likely they’ll be presented with at least one vegetable or fruit they’ve never had in their kitchens before.
For this year’s Fifer Orchards CSA, satellite pick-up points are being offered for convenience, based on demand. According to their Web site, a minimum of 20 members will be required to proceed with each satellite pick-up location, but Fifer’s southernmost pick-up point is in Dewey Beach, at Fifer’s Local-Fresh Market, on Route 1 northbound), on Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information or to register for the 2012 CSA, visit fiferorchards.com. The deadline to sign up is April 1.
Greenbranch Organic Farms CSA members can pick up their share at the farm near Salisbury, Md. For more information or to register, visit www.greenbranchfarm.com. The deadline to sign up is April 30.
Taylor’s Fresh Organics members can call Madeline Berger in member services at 443-515-0323 for questions or they can register online at taylorsfreshorganics.com. They have pick-up points from Annapolis to Berlin to Salisbury, Md. Sign-ups will end in March.
Many farms also participate in local farmers’ markets, for added convenience. Both Fifer and Greenbranch participate in the Rehoboth Beach and Lewes farmers’ markets, and Greenbranch also participates in Bethany Beach’s farmers’ market. That means those who elect not to join the CSA this year can still get a taste of the sustainably-produced produce this farmers’ market season, ready to tempt their palettes for a taste of 2013’s CSAs.
Many also participate in local food banks so everyone – regardless of their ability to pay – can potentially have access to locally grown vegetables.
Since joining a CSA allows for shareholders to get to know their farmers, consumers are able to directly ask them questions about “local” versus “organic,” or “natural” versus “certified.” But those terms abound in the world of community-supported agriculture, so the chances of getting fresh food that conforms with a desire for healthy or environmentally-friendly options are pretty good.
Information is available online about each of the farms and their histories and/or philosophies for growing their crops.
CSAs have limited numbers of shares available, so early registration is recommended. Those who can’t make the investment needed for a full CSA share can even coordinate with friends, family and neighbors to split the boxes after they’re picked up.