Community Supported Agriculture, better known as CSA, has been around for decades, but at the rate it is spreading these days you would think it’s something novel and new. CSA allows consumers to buy local, seasonal, farm fresh produce directly from the grower. Farmers offer shares of their crop for a purchase price, which is paid in advance. In return, the members (or subscribers as they are typically called) get a box, bag, or basket of produce each week during the growing season. Farmers benefit from the direct sale and investment early in the season and buyers get the healthy bounty and peace of mind knowing exactly where their food is coming from. Laura Hayden has a share from The Shambles, an urban farm off Versailles Road in Lexington. “My schedule can make it difficult for me to shop regularly at the Farmers Market and it is so convenient to have a bundle delivered weekly to my place of employment,” Hayden said.
The cornucopia of goodness has the added bonus of challenging shareholders to try something new since you never know for sure what may end up in your weekly basket. “I love trying new things and this encourages me to think outside of my typical grocery list. It also fits my personality of wanting to explore different recipes firsthand!” Hayden said. CSA’s are not limited to vegetables. You can purchase shares of eggs, chicken, beef, flowers, fruits, herbs, and even locally produced cheese. Kentucky farmers have diversified which makes for plentiful options.
Annual cost depends on length of harvest season. Each farmer budgets and takes into consideration their capital expenses like land, equipment, and irrigation. There are operating expenses, which include the cost of seeds, soil, and water. “More than 90% of our seed & seed stock is not only heirloom but organic. We use only natural amendments like aged manure to build the health of the soil,” says Laura Clark of the Shambles. She handles the farming. Her sister June Laves takes care of marketing. All of that takes a lot of time, which has a value too. Once the budget is determined the share prices are set. There are shares to fit most budgets and needs. Some are as low as $5 a week up to $30. Your needs dictate the amount you receive. Mini or half shares feed a single person or a couple that does not do a lot of cooking. A regular/full share meets the weekly veggie needs of a couple or small family. There are also robust shares for large families or singles/couples who are vegetarians. Laves of The Shambles sums it up simply, “Share the costs to share the harvest.” Shares are limited so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and sign up well before the growing season begins.
Even though I grow my own vegetables and herbs in the spring and summer, my garden is small which limits how much I can grow. And let’s be realistic, how many of us are raising our own cattle and chickens? But I sure like the idea of locally raised meats and eggs. So a CSA is great for the small home gardener who would like to supplement what they have as well as those who don’t have the time or desire to grow their own food. For Laura Hayden, it’s fun and rewarding knowing a local farmer is benefiting from her participation. “I love the thought that my veggies are being grown locally, organically and I am obtaining them at their freshest and the peak time!”, she said.
There are more than fifty CSA’s across Kentucky. Nearly a dozen of them are right here in Lexington, Scott, and Clark counties. To see the full list and learn more, visit kyagr.com and search for CSA.