First, a quick review of what a CSA is! A CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) works like this: an individual or family pre-orders a share of the harvest from a farmer before the growing season begins. This model provides farmers with cash up front to help pay for seeds, compost, and other needed supplies for the coming growing season.
Now, why join a CSA? Here are my top five reasons.
1. Make new community connections
In addition to growing food, many CSA farmers grow community by hosting parties and other community gatherings at the farm. These events better connect you to the farmers, the crops and other CSA members.
Jenny and Bruce Wooster of Picadilly Farm in Winchester throw a “Welcome, Summer” Concert each June, offering music and strawberry shortcake (featuring their own strawberries) with locally made ice cream. They also provide pick-your-own options so that you can pick alongside new friends.
2. Support what you’re passionate about
Whether your passions include reducing your carbon footprint or supporting holistic growing philosophies like permaculture or biodynamic farming, Monadnock region CSA farms have you covered!
Passionate about organic? Keep in mind that many small farms use organic growing practices, even if they’re not certified organic. Farmer Bruce Bickford from Abenaki Springs Farm in Walpole shared, “Though the farm is not certified organic at the moment, we continue to use practices that exceed the requirements for organic certification.”
Love horses? Hillside Springs Farm in Westmoreland is a biodynamic farm that’s also horse-powered. “Our Belgian horses Molly and Moon and black Percheron Ben plow, disc, harrow, spread compost, make beds, and cultivate the garden,” shared farmers Frank Hunter and Kim Peavey. “The horses give us the opportunity to have a working partnership with animals that is rare and vital these days. And we greatly enjoy their good company!”
3. Support local and healthy food for all
Many farms in the Monadnock region work hard to ensure their food is accessible and affordable to all. New Dawn Farm in Westmoreland donates first-quality produce to Joan’s Pantry in Chesterfield and seconds to the Community Kitchen in Keene. Farmer Clai Lasher-Sommers shares, “Joining our CSA not only supports local agriculture but also helps us provide free produce to local families with limited funds.”
Picadilly Farm participates in NOFA-NH’s Farm Share Program, which provides subsidized CSA shares to individuals and families from low-income households. Also, through the Granite State Market Match program, SNAP shareholders pay half of Picadilly Farm’s CSA share price and Market Match covers the rest. More and more farms now accept SNAP payments and participate in the Market Match program: granitestatemarketmatch.org.
4. Make it easier for you to eat more local food
With multiple pick-up locations and delivery services, you can find a way to boost your intake of healthy locally grown and made food. Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam offers a home delivery service for an additional fee. At the end of a long workday, come home to a basket full of freshly harvested produce waiting for you on your front porch. Meet Farm Manager Jack Rixey and the whole farm crew at Tracie’s Community Farm.
Other CSAs offer pick-up locations in various towns throughout the region to make getting your weekly share more convenient — and some offer pick-ups at farmers markets.
5. Expand your pallet and try new recipes
Before getting a CSA, I stuck to the basics when I shopped for produce. After I joined a CSA, ground cherries became my favorite snack, celeriac goes in my soup stock and parsnip cake is my go-to offering at potlucks. There are so many new vegetables to discover through your CSA share! But don’t worry, most CSAs share recipes and storage tips for unique offerings through their weekly newsletters.
Your pallet may expand way beyond produce, too. Sun Moon Farm in Rindge occasionally adds pear/apple cider, flowers, granola and sauerkraut to their produce shares. Farmers Craig and Megan Jensen also offer a bread share, with bread made on the farm: .
If you’re a carnivore, Village Roots Permaculture Farm in Alstead sells both poultry and pork shares. Marty Castriotta and Ellen Denny raise their animals on pasture and organic grain.
Seven Generations Farm in Gilsum offers an incredibly unique CSA option, Community Support Herbalism. Members receive salves, soaps, tinctures, teas and tonics made with plants grown on the farm or wild-harvested by farmers Eric and Nicole Zablowsky. “We envision a farm that not only feeds us but nourishes the soil and our souls.”
Ready to meet these CSA farmers?
Attend a free Monadnock Region CSA Fair at the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene on Sunday, March 10, 2019, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eight local CSA farmers will set up informational tables and answer questions about their farms and CSA memberships.
We hope to see you there!