Time to Join a CSA
During the summer, when few crops other than tropical fruits and produce grow here, South Florida farmers are busy planning for their upcoming fall growing season. “There’s no such thing as the off-season,” says Chuck Lyons of Verde Community Farm. “For us organic vegetable growers, these hot summer months are spent cutting back the ever-encroaching green mass of vegetation, making repairs and improvements to property and equipment, and planning how we’re going to go about making the magic happen all over again in another few months.”
For farms that offer CSA programs – Community Supported Agriculture – farmers need to know how many people they’re growing for, and have enough money in the bank to get it started,says Lyons. That’s why CSA members are asked to pay up front in the summertime. “This is important not only for the farmer to be able to purchase all of the necessary materials for the season, but because the CSA format is intended to reduce some of the risks associated with growing food for the public. Vegetables are considered a specialty crop and growers don’t have any form of crop insurance for them like they would for corn or soy, for example,” he says.
Joining a CSA helps more than the farmer – it helps create a more sustainable and secure local food system, and it’s one of the best ways for consumers to eat the freshest seasonal local produce available. “Members receive a better value for their food dollars, receive specialty items that aren’t typically carried in stores, and newsletters with recipes for how to cook them,” says Lyons. “For some, the experience can completely change the way they eat, which carries over into their daily lives to make more conscious decisions for healthy living.”
See guide at left for South Florida CSAs.
CSAs at a Glance
• Signing up for a CSA now – before the growing season begins – gives farmers money for the upcoming season. Think of it as an investment that will pay off in a few months.
• During harvest time – typically in the late fall in South Florida – you'll get a box of produce, which you can pick up at designated spots, including some Whole Foods Markets, farmers markets, restaurants and other outlets.
• Discover new fruits, vegetables and herbs! You may receive unfamiliar produce in your weekly box, a good opportunity to expand your culinary repertoire. We feature seasonal recipes tied to CSA offerings. Bounty for the Box (see left) is an excellent and comprehensive resource that covers a wide range of produce – how to prepare it, store it, cook with it and much more.