Are you interested in eating fresh, seasonal, nutritious food while supporting local farmers? You may want to join a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. When you join a CSA, you purchase farm shares directly from your local farmer. In return, you receive fresh produce throughout the growing season, support the local economy, and develop a relationship with the farmers who grow your food.
There are a variety of CSA options, but you can expect to receive weekly boxes of food that contain produce, fruit, cheese, eggs, meat, flowers or herbs. Many farmers also include newsletters, cooking tips, and recipes. Some farms even provide opportunities for you to visit the farm or participate in farm events and dinners.
A typical CSA season in Wisconsin runs from May through October, and you are usually able to sign up from December or April, or until the farm fills up. There are a variety of share options and payment plans to accommodate different households. A “standard” share usually feeds a family of four, but if this seems like too much food for your family, you may be able to sign up for a “half” share or split a “standard” share with another family.
There are a variety of CSA options in southwestern Wisconsin, and Fair Share Coalition provides free resources to help you to decide which CSA farm is best for your family. The farms that are endorsed by Fair Share Coalition must grow or produce the majority of their products on the farm, be certified organic or transition to organic certification, raise animals in humane conditions, and be able to provide a high level of customer service.
A typical CSA farm share costs anywhere from $300 to $650 for the season, however, some farms offer worker shares, which allows CSA members to pay for their weekly share by working a specified number of hours each week on the farm. In addition, some insurance companies, including Dean Health, GHC-SCW, Physicians Plus, and Unity Health, offer health insurance rebates for making healthy choices. You can earn $100 to $200 cash rebates for purchasing fruit or vegetable CSA shares. Furthermore, you may quality for Fair Share’s Partner Shares Program if you have a limited income. If your current monthly household income is at or below the 185% of Federal Poverty Guidelines, you may receive 50%, up to $300, toward the cost of shares from Fair Share-endorsed CSA farms. You may also use SNAP benefits to pay for your CSA farm membership. To learn more, visit the Fair Share Coalition website (www.csacoalition.org) and go to the “CSA Healthy Rebate Program” and the “Partner Shares” links.
If you would like to learn more about joining a CSA, you are invited to Upland Hills Health to meet local farmers Rink DaVee from Shooting Star Farm and Lois Federman from Farm Connection Meat CSA. Rink and Lois will be near the entrance to the Center Café from 11:00 to 1:00 on March 4th and March 12th to answer your questions and to help you to sign up for a CSA.