March 13, 2018 - What is a CSA, and which is right for you? Those who frequent the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and other local farmers markets and stands may have heard the term "CSA" used, but are unsure of what it means or stands for. The crux of the CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, is that the consumer purchases a share of a particular farm's harvest upfront for the season, to be picked up regularly, and becomes a member of that farm.
All CSAs are managed differently, so it is important to find the CSA that best suits your lifestyle and needs. To help you find your perfect match, the Ann Arbor Farmers Market will be holding its first-ever CSA Day on Saturday, April 21. Vendors offering CSAs will be present to answer questions, provide information and explain what makes their CSA unique. The following Ann Arbor Farmers Market vendors offer a variety of CSAs: Bayport Fish, Brines Farm, Coblentz Acres, Community Farm, Goetz Greenhouse, Green Things Farm, Harvest Kitchen, Kapnick's Orchard, Songbird Farm, Lake Divide Farm, Locavorious, Our Family Farm, Seeley Farm, Songbird Farm, Tantre Farm and Whitney Farmstead.
Produce shares typically cost anywhere from $450–650 per share and often include a weekly box of 7–10 vegetables and/or fruits, or enough to feed a family of two to three. Many CSAs offer half-shares as well.
CSAs are not just limited to produce. As fruit and vegetable CSAs have grown in popularity, there has also been a growth of CSAs that offer meat, eggs, milk and other farm products. There are CSAs for the four seasons as well, even including winter here in Michigan. Shares are picked up weekly or bi-weekly either from the market, or directly at the farm; location depends on the CSA.
CSAs ensure that farmers are better able to pay for up-front costs such as such as seed, water and equipment — ideally making them less reliant on banks and loans. They also help to spread the risk among producers and consumers when growing seasons are more challenging, all the while evenly distributing the benefits when the season is bountiful. CSAs encourage a direct producer-consumer relationship by cutting out the "middle-man," and they foster a stronger sense of community that helps to reinforce the regional food supply.
A list of CSAs offered by Ann Arbor Farmers Market vendors can be found at www.a2gov.org/market. Find out more about the CSA Day event on the Ann Arbor Farmers Market Facebook page, www.facebook.com/a2market/. Shop local every Saturday from 8 a.m.–3 p.m., 315 Detroit St.