Green Scene: City Supported Agriculture

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Even though there is snow on the ground and a biting chill in the air, we bet you are dreaming about Spring and the bounty that it brings. Now’s the time to think about joining a CSA. “CSA” stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” in most cases. How it works is that you buy a share of a farm and in return you get fresh, seasonal, local, fruits and veggies every week. By joining a CSA, you are buying food directly from the farmer and essentially cutting out the middle man of the grocery store. It’s a win-win situation: you get the freshest food possible and you support your community by keeping your food dollars local.

While some farms prefer you pay up front (between $700 and $800), many farmers are offering payment plans to make it easier on consumers. And although that may seem like a lot of money, when you do the math, it’s not really. Most farm shares run from late Spring to early Fall, spanning about 22 to 25 weeks. When you divide the overall cost by the number of weeks, it works out to between $30 and $40 dollars a week.

One thing to keep in mind is that CSAs aren’t for everyone. Sometimes, you get some strange things, like celeriac or Dandelion greens. But, if you’re up for a culinary adventure, CSAs are the way to go! Most of them also provide a weekly newsletter with tips and recipes about how to prepare the food in your share. Another great resource is a book called, From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm Fresh Seasonal Produce. The cookbook has a section for each vegetable (even the strange ones!) and then provides cooking ideas and recipes.

Here are some local CSA options for Philadelphians:

  • Greensgrow Farms operates what it calls a “City Supported Agriculture” share and provides edibles grown on its farm right here in the city’s Kensington section, as well as goods from farmers and local artisans from within a 150-mile radius. They have several CSA options, including a full share, half share, and work share. They also offer meat and vegetarian options.
  • Lancaster Farm Fresh is a cooperative of about 50 Amish and Mennonite Farmers and provides local and organic produce delivered to various locations throughout the city. They have several CSA options, including a full share, half share, full fruit share, and half fruit share.
  • Weaver’s Way Cooperative is partnering with the W.B. Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences, in the city’s Roxborough section, to offer its first CSA. The farm is called, “Henry Got Crops!” and will be run by Weaver’s Way staff working with Saul’s agroecology program. And since the busiest part of the CSA season will be in the Summer when the students are off, Weaver’s Way will be hiring students to work.

There are many other options out there for Philadelphians, too many to list here. But, if you’re interested in finding out more about CSAs or participating in one, check out Local Harvest’s website. Once there, you can punch in your zip code and get a list of CSA options for your neighborhood.

Image credit: Flickr user quaanaaq.

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