If you are like most Americans, the last subscription you probably bought was to a magazine. With the advent of all sorts of new technological devices that allow you to carry several magazines on one tiny computer in the palm of your hand, this magazine probably showed up in your inbox rather than your mail box. As you scroll from page to page each month, you pat yourself on the back for choosing the environmentally sound option. But what if you found out that you could buy a new type of subscription: one that would feed your family with fresh delicious food, help to support local agriculture, and foster an all-around healthier physical and communal way of life? If it sounds too good to be true, allow the term “Community Supported Agriculture” to pique your interest.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA as it is commonly known, is a system whereby consumers purchase a subscription to a farm where they will receive a share of local produce on a weekly basis for a fixed period of time, namely the growing season. Here’s how it works: before the Jersey Fresh Tomatoes make their first juicy appearance on the vine, or a chicken lays an egg with a nutritious yellowy yoke, community members communicate with the farmer and purchase a CSA subscription. For a fixed price, this subscription promises to provide the consumer with some form of produce from the farm each week. When the time comes for that tomato to be picked or that chicken to lay those eggs, the consumer visits the farm once a week and picks up their share of the season’s produce. CSA’s come in various forms and provide various types of products. In most cases, the farmer puts together boxes of vegetables. Some CSA’s provide homemade bread, meat, cheese and other dairy products from the farm. Sometimes a CSA can consist of a third party who gathers several products from various local farms and sells them to the consumers. In other cases, the community members are shareholders in the land where the food is grown, while the farmer is leasing the property. In this instance, the consumers are directly providing the farmer with his or her salary.
The first CSAs in the United States were formed in 1986 in Massachusetts and Vermont. These farms were The CSA Garden at Great Barrington and Temple-Wilton Community Farm, respectively. Today there are over 4,000 farms in the US that operate as a system of community supported agriculture. The advantages to sharing in such a system are equal for both the consumer and the farmer. For the farmer, it eases the tension of marketing his or her product, they receive payment early in the season, and they establish a relationship with the people who are consuming the fruit of their hard labor. The consumer is provided with the freshest produce, discovers new food they otherwise would not have tried, gets the opportunity to see where their food is coming from, and they too foster a relationship with the farmer.
This year will see the first year in the adoption of a CSA Egg Membership at Beach Plum Farm. Currently, Beach Plum Farm is home to 275 chickens. Within the next month, the amount of chickens that will call the farm their home will increase to 500. In the past, the farm has provided eggs for The Blue Pig Tavern, the Rusty Nail, and visitors to the farm stand. The increase in the chicken population will allow for members of the community to purchase a subscription where they will receive their choice of either one dozen or two dozen farm fresh eggs to take home on a weekly basis from June 20- November 1, 2014. Members are guaranteed delicious and nutritious eggs from free-range chickens that have feasted on a healthy diet of grass and chicken feed (a mixture of corn and soybeans with vitamins and minerals). The chickens at Beach Plum Farm are never given any kind of medicine or hormones, thus ensuring the healthiest or eggs. A dozen eggs a week between June and November costs $95, while two dozen eggs weekly are available for $180. Follow the link below to register for your membership by May 22nd.
For more information regarding Community Supported Agriculture and the information found in this article, visit the following websites and discover the symbiotic advantages of supporting local farms!