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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Why CSA’s Are So Great



By Becky Streeter


Community-Supported Agriculture, CSA for short, is a crop-sharing system that directly connects farms to customers’ tables. Customers purchase a share of the business prior to the season beginning. As the season progresses, boxes of incredibly fresh produce or other goods can be picked up at a specified location on a regularly scheduled day and time.



When you purchase a share from a farm, you are sharing in that farm’s yields for the season. Participating farms have a limited number of shares available, and they depend on pre-season purchases to help cover the cost of seeds, fertilizer, equipment maintenance, and labor. Share prices and packages vary by farm. Common CSA’s include fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, flowers or soap. On a week-to-week basis, your share might look differently depending on what is available and what is in season at the time. Fruit and vegetable shares might only start with some herbs and lettuce, but will likely be more colorful and bountiful as the season progresses.


Weather and the ever-changing climate each play a role in farming, and can affect a CSA share. When you purchase a share, you are agreeing to support the farmer no matter what happens because you believe in their practices and goods. That means if there are extreme temperatures and a severe lack of rain that destroy a strawberry crop, you do not get monetarily reimbursed. Rachel Keniston, a farmer at Solheim Market Wisconsin Garden, says they vigilantly watch the weather and make use of their resources accordingly. 


Keniston says, “We have water available but we use it carefully. Drought did not keep us from having beautiful produce last summer.” 


Additionally, if crops do perform poorly due to uncontrollable circumstances, farmers often provide a substitute item.


One of the great benefits of a CSA is you really get to know your farmer and their growing practices. For example, at Solheim, which means ‘Sun Home’ in Norwegian, they focus on the importance of growing responsibly and in sustainable ways. “Our primary goal at Solheim is rebuilding a healthy and diverse ecological landscape to produce an abundant variety of nourishing food,” says Keniston. “Our growing beds are worked with hand tools such as broad forks, and we don’t use herbicides or pesticides, so our crops are as safe and clean as possible. The soil is healthy and holds moisture well.” In fact, Solheim even uses the Vegvisir as their logo. Keniston says, “In Northern tradition, the Vegvisir is a magical symbol of navigation often called the ‘Viking Compass.’ It represents a guidepost used to protect its users from becoming lost, or helping them find their way in bad weather, be it literal or figurative.”


Signing up for a CSA has many other benefits including:

Incredibly fresh goods–most produce is picked within 24 hours of pickup

100% of your money goes directly to the farmer and there is no need for packaging, transportation, or middlemen–simultaneously decreasing the carbon footprint

Farmers know that what they plant will be used, instead of hoping it will be purchased


As an example of a CSA package, Solheim’s weekly share includes whichever fruits, vegetables or herbs are at their peak, packaged in a biodegradable bag that can either be returned and reused or composted. You will also receive a weekly e-newsletter about the items in the package, an update about the farm, and some recipes for preparation. Shares are $500 for the season (usually June through October) and can be paid in lump sum or by installment. Each weekly package is enough to feed two to three people. To learn more or sign up for a share, visit www.solheimwi.com.


To learn more about other CSA: Strike up a conversation with a vendor you like at your local farmers market and see what they have to offer.


Volume One has a list of local CSA’s on their website: volumeone.org/sites/summer/listings/categories/200140-community-supported-agriculture.


Menomonie Market Food Co-Op has locations in both Menomonie and Eau Claire. They are a crop-sharing store, and they also have a wealth of information on local CSA’s. You can pop in there for a brochure to research on your own time, or visit their website: www.mmfc.coop/csa.


Source: Menomonie Market Food Co-Op. 

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