Community Supported Agriculture from Local Harvest©

Community Supported Agriculture

Thinking about signing up for a CSA but want to learn more about the idea before you commit? Read on.

For over 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief:

Advantages for farmers:
  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

It’s a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it. The government does not track CSAs, so there is no official count of how many CSAs there are in the U.S.. LocalHarvest has the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, with over 4,000 listed in our grassroots database.

Variations

As you might expect with such a successful model, farmers have begun to introduce variations. One increasingly common one is the “mix and match,” or “market-style” CSA. Here, rather than making up a standard box of vegetables for every member each week, the members load their own boxes with some degree of personal choice. The farmer lays out baskets of the week’s vegetables. Some farmers encourage members to take a prescribed amount of what’s available, leaving behind just what their families do not care for. Some CSA farmers then donate this extra produce to a food bank. In other CSAs, the members have wider choice to fill their box with whatever appeals to them, within certain limitations. (e.g. “Just one basket of strawberries per family, please.”)

CSAs aren’t confined to produce. Some farmers include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies. Sometimes several farmers will offer their products together, to offer the widest variety to their members. For example, a produce farmer might create a partnership with a neighbor to deliver chickens to the CSA drop off point, so that the CSA members can purchase farm-fresh chickens when they come to get their CSA baskets. Other farmers are creating standalone CSAs for meat, flowers, eggs, and preserved farm products. In some parts of the country, non-farming third parties are setting up CSA-like businesses, where they act as middle men and sell boxes of local (and sometimes non-local) food for their members.

Shared Risk

There is an important concept woven into the CSA model that takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction. That is the notion of shared risk: in most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundant box of produce each week. If things are slim, members are not typically reimbursed. The result is a feeling of “we’re in this together”. On some farms the idea of shared risk is stronger than others, and CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.

Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first.

Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things go wrong on a farm like they do in any kind of business and the expected is not delivered, and members feel shortchanged. At LocalHarvest we are in touch with CSA farmers and members from all over the country. Every year we hear get complaints about a few CSA farms (two to six farms a year, over the last nine years) where something happened and the produce was simply unacceptable. It might have been a catastrophic divorce, or an unexpected death in the family. Or the weather was abominable, or the farmer was inexperienced and got in over his/her head.

In our experience, if the situation seems regrettable but reasonable a bad thing that in good faith could have happened to anyone – most CSA members will rally, if they already know and trust the farmer. These people are more likely to take the long view, especially if they have received an abundance of produce in the past. They are naturally more likely to think, “It’ll be better next year,” than are new members who have nothing to which to compare a dismal experience. The take-home message is this: if the potential for “not getting your money’s worth” makes you feel anxious, then shared risk may not be for you and you should shop at the farmers market.

Sometimes we hear complaints from CSA members in situations where it appears to us that nothing really went wrong, but the member had unreasonable expectations. In the hope of minimizing disappointment and maximizing satisfaction, we’ve prepared the following tips and questions.

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

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Basic Laundry Soap – DIY

It’s pretty easy to make homemade laundry soap, so I’ve includes a basic recipe and a website that has directions with pictures that I like. Let’s start with the ingredients

Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha, Zote, or basic Ivory

½ cup washing soda (Not baking soda)

½ cup borax powder 

 

You can find all this near the detergent in most stores, even my supermarket had these ingredients. Give the soaps a sniff test, because I love the smell of fels naptha, but my family hates it while it’s being used; they don’t mind the finished, washed smell.

~You will also need a big container – 2 gallon-ish or 3 old detergent containers. I also recommend using a old pot expressly for soap making with its own stirring utensil, grater, and funnel~

 

Grate the soap and put it in a large pan (remember the soap pan, because you will never get that taste/smell out).  Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts, smaller grate – faster melt. Be careful at this point, because it can boil over fast (it will clean your stove, lol). Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Pour half a gallon of hot water into the container(s).   Now add your soap mixture and stir.  Now add 1.5 gallon of water and stir. You could do this in separate bottles just ball part it into equal amounts, this is why you might want a funnel and you can use the reused laundry caps to measure for your loads.  Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.  You use ½ cup per load. Make sure to shake before use. Some people like to add a bit of essential oils, but not me. Just be careful to start with a few drops and add it after you try it if you would like more smell.

 

Here is one pictorial style directions http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/laundrysoap2.htm         There are tons of different, but similar recipes, so look around a bit.

Free? What a Waste – Let’s talk books

Wait! Don’t leave. I love books too!

The thing is that I own a lot. I mean a lot of books. So recently I’ve tried to pare down my books (still have a lot) while slowly working toward a minimalist life style. This end is actually going pretty well since I’m just getting rid of a box at a time, but there is one thing I want to pass along.

Free books! That’s right people, free books. Who doesn’t like free? How can you get said books? First, let’s go with the obvious. Use your LIBRARY! Not only can you go there, most libraries offer e-books, mags, and music. After that, there are tons of free places for e-books. If you haven’t heard of the Gutenburg project, you could look that now. But by far my favorite option is Amazon. Yes, Amazon has tons, tons of free books. Hit that up! They have all kinds of topics, so post me some of ur favorites or a internet site to mention in a follow-up.

An Accidental Re-do

Dwelling On A Dime

On Wednesday, we had an electrician come over to do some work for us upstairs. My newly-redone hall table was right outside the main bathroom. I always try to provide water, coffee, or beer to anyone working on the house. Hubby set the glass of ice water on the table. Despite layers of poly and wax, the water bubbled the top layer and it peeled RIGHT off the table.

-_- Do you know how long those paint jobs take? They’re not something you can patch up! I allowed myself my momentary freakout and went back to the drawing board. The best idea I had for the top was to decoupage it. Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets, so I put her poetry on the top, using lots of regular glue, reinforcing the seams, and 3-4 heavy coats of poly. I added the side stencils and then hand painted…

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