Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture...reinvented?

Every Wednesday, across the nation, most newspapers print their food section, providing plenty of great reading. I was trawling through the web this morning, looking for interesting articles about local food, when I came across this headline: Ashland farmer reinvents model for community supported agriculture. Hmmmm. Very intriguing, especially for a guy like me who loves CSAs, as a business model, as an eating philosophy and as a semi-cryptic initialism. Each CSA program is unique. There have been a few creative twists tried out over the years, some more effective than others.

Crown S Ranch in the Methow Valley runs a meat and poultry CSA, radically different than the traditional vegetable and fruit shares (a phenomenal way to secure a locally grown Thanksgiving turkey!)

Full Circle Farm, near Carnation, WA, has taken the CSA model and tweaked it to fit a more modern lifestyle, with web-based accounts, multiple share sizes, year-round service, and some exotic foods.

Helsing Junction Farm, outside of Rochester, WA, offers a Foodbank Farm Donation, where "every season we accept donations from our members and we then match those funds, allowing us to deliver CSA boxes directly to families who rely on the food bank for some of their dietary needs." (From their website)

There are CSAs delivered by bicycle (for those who are "hyperlocal"), cut-flower CSAs, winter-only CSAs, harvest-your-own CSAs (the lovechild of CSAs and U-picks), and many other iterations

What did this farmer to to "reinvent" the CSA model? He offered smaller share sizes. Not, in my mind, a "reinvention" of the CSA model, but the farmer's CSA model tweak represents a shift in the reach of and target audience for CSA programs. In the past, CSAs were primarily targeted for the "core" of the local food scene, but in the last five years or so, they have really taken off, spreading outward and adapting to the desires of the so-called "second tier" consumers. It's an interesting trend that both supports the sustainability of local farms and meets increasing market demand.

RIGHT NOW is the best time to sign up for a CSA. Check out the 2009 Puget Sound Fresh CSA Directory to find a program near you.

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