CSA Sign-Up Season in Full Swing

Just because vegetables aren’t growing outside right now doesn’t mean that the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers are just sitting around.

A big thing that CSA growers are doing now during the winter is looking at seed and equipment catalogs. These growers need to order thousands of dollars worth of seeds, not to mention supplies such as potting soil, roll cover, tractor tires, greenhouse plastic, you name it. So the winter means a lot of time in the office.

At the end of February, some greenhouses are getting fired up to start the longer growing produce. Then in March and into April, the transplants will be started in the greenhouse. By the middle of April farmers will get into their fields and work the soil for the first time. 

“They’re also working to adjust to industry changes post pandemic,” explains Tess Romanski,  Communications and Development Manager for the FairShare CSA Coalition. “Two big changes we’ve seen are the surge of customizable shares and the use of home delivery services.”

Additionally, market shares have witnessed substantial growth. This allows consumers to shop for their produce on-site or at farmers markets and choose what they want versus receiving the traditional CSA box.

Romanski adds, “Add-ons have also been really popular so far. These include offering grain or meat add-ons. This allows consumers to purchase additional things besides just their veggies, eggs, flours, etc. It allows the CSA to be more of a one-stop pickup rather than one of several places you have to go to get your groceries.”

CSAs are a great way to connect producers with consumers to help create a more profitable and transparent food system. For those who want to sign up for a CSA, there are a few things they should think about. Key things to consider are what produce you want, how often, where you’re located versus where the pickup or delivery is, and how much you’ll need for how often you want to receive produce.

“Those interested should sign up sooner than later. Some years the membership list will fill up faster or slower than others,” says Romanski.

FairShare CSA Coalition has a tool on their website called Farm Search. This tool has a map of all CSA farms and allows you to sort them by different criteria. You can search by your address to see pickup locations near you, share size or type, and by season. 

“The reason that a lot of beginning growers look at CSA is the financial stability,” explains Romanski. “From a consumer perspective, what you’re doing is you’re allowing a farmer the stability that they need to start up. You can imagine how hard it is to start any business, but especially something like farming. That requires so many skills and so much capital investment.”

When members invest in a farm they’re giving the farmer the financial foundations that they need for that year, and in turn, the farmer shares with those members accordingly all that produce.