At their most fundamental level, CSA farms provide a weekly delivery of organically grown produce to consumers during the growing season (June to October). Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee. But CSA consumers don't simply "buy" foodstuffs from particular farms as become "members" of those farms. CSA operations provide more than just food; they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm. They get connected with their food.
What does CSA membership involve? Arrangements vary. Some CSA operations deliver their baskets to the neighborhoods where members live, while others arrange for members to pick up their vegetables at the farm. Some CSA farms expect members to work on the farm at least once during the season while others only expect members to support the farm with their membership dollars.
Being involved with a CSA operation always means sharing the rewards as well as the risks of farming: enjoying the freshest produce available, often harvested the same day you receive it; knowing where, how and by whom your food is being produced; having a direct connection with the people who produce your food; and supporting the kind of stewardship that is good for the land as well as its people.
The risks include weather and pests. Though formidable for small, self-sustaining farmers, these risks are bearable when shared by a group of shareholders. By linking together through CSA operations, farmers and consumers can both benefit from an agriculture that provides beautiful and bountiful food while preserving the ecological and social basis necessary for coming generations to be so blessed.
A key component of the equation is education. If the members know what the farmers are doing –with the whys and the hows – it makes the whole experience more meaningful.
That's where FARM DAY at Ferme Cooperative Tourne-sol comes in. Just west of Montreal, the 5 partner farmers hold an annual July Field Day welcoming members, and curiosity seekers a chance to walk the fields, the barn, the greenhouses and learn all about the whys and hows of growing vegetables and herbs organically. Things like: why using handtools for weeding and seeding is the choice of these farmers. Why it's important to give some of the land over to cover crops each year to rebuild the soil and keep weeds down. What are the newest methods for dealing with pests. All strategies for ensuring a succession of bountiful vegetables all season long.
More and more families on getting on board the CSA train, since exposing kids to where their food comes from helps them develop their palettes and a taste for fresh and healthy stuff. At Ferme Cooperative Tourne-Sol, there's a 'pick your own' garden section - a bonus for the families who opt to come out for their weekly baskets. Kids can harvest their own peas, beans and cherry tomatoes and pick lovely bouquets of flowers to take home, too.
Coming up... how to make broccoli sexy!