I know there is still snow on the ground, but Central Iowa farmers are making plans for spring planting. Now is the time to sign your family up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. Iowa is one of the top ranked local producers in the country. So, if you are interested in joining a CSA, it makes it easy to find a local farm near you.
So what is a CSA, you ask? A CSA is a way for families and individuals to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. A farm offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products, such as meat, cheese, eggs, etc. may be included. Families purchase a share and in return receive a basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. Some farms deliver packages directly to your home, others have convenient pick-up sites.
If you don’t want to take care of your own garden or can’t make it to the Farmer’s Market, you will have regular access to fresh, local food. And because it’s fresh your leafy greens will last longer and the tomatoes will just taste better. In addition to providing healthy, nutritious food for your family, you will also be helping out a local farmer by providing them with a steady source of income.
Every farmer is at the mercy of Mother Nature. So, if there is a blight or conditions are ripe for a certain crop, it will impact the variety of produce you receive each week. Because you don’t necessarily know what you will be receiving, you will need to be creative and flexible with recipes and have a plan to use produce as it comes in. CSAs do run out of shares and you may need to be ready to call two or three farms to find one with availability.
The average CSA full share in central Iowa costs between $450-500 and lasts 20 weeks. The cost will depend on the type of delivery, duration and products included in the share. If meat and cheese are included the cost will increase. Many farms also have a menu of pricing options. You can choose quarter, half and full shares or seasonal shares. Some farms require full payment up front, while others accept monthly payments. You can also bring the price down by splitting the cost of the share with another family.
To find out more information about eating local in Des Moines and to find a list of homegrown CSAs checkout Eat Greater Des Moines’ website.
Do you subscribe to a CSA? Which one? Let us know in the Comments section below.