Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
April / May 1999


Community-Supported Agriculture: A Wise Choice for Your Family

by Pam Sherman

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between ecologically conscious farmers and consumers. As a consumer, you buy a share in a CSA farm, receiving organic, vine-ripened vegetables and other foods fresh from the farm once a week.

The share cost is almost always equal to or lower than the cost for an equivalent amount of conventional produce. One portion of your membership is non-refundable in case of natural disaster (which may take out one or more crops but, except for the most highly unlikely scenario, other crops will thrive). This enables the small organic farmer to stay in business, albeit still earning a very modest income, since organic farmers are not eligible for federal sup-port. The emotional and financial support of a CSA community has even helped small conventional farmers go organic. The following is a list of some criteria that may be helpful in choosing the right Colorado CSA for you.

1. Share Size—Most farms offer full shares and half shares; only some offer single shares. Some CSAs encourage members to split shares. Ask if share splitting is encouraged or if single shares are available.

2. Extras—For most people, the abundance of the weekly share is enough. But some of us want even more strawberries, basil or whatever. Does the CSA grow enough to let you have extras? Ask about this.

3. Price—Most CSAs charge roughly the same amount. Some may be less expensive but start farming a bit later or stop earlier. Find out when the growing season starts, what produce you can expect at a given time and how much produce you can expect at peak season.

4. Variety of Produce—What veggies are grown regularly? What’s the process of getting other veggies you want? Produce doesn’t just mean veggies! A number of CSAs produce herbs, flowers, and fruit, too. At some you can even buy shares of a cow, pig or other domestic animal, as well as eggs or even baked goods.

5. Pickup/Delivery of Produce—Some farms deliver to a central location in the city; others ask that you come to them.

6. Work Option—Most farms will allow you to work on the farm for reduced cost.

7. Proximity to Your Home—If you go once a week and/or want to participate often in the educational and social aspects of the CSA, you may care about this.

8. Social Aspects—Most CSAs offer social get togethers.

9. Educational Aspects—Many CSAs offer courses. Some farms accept interns and apprentices.

10. Child-friendliness—Kids of working members usually alternate between working with parents and playing.

11. Service Aspect—Is making nutritious food available to everyone important to you? Some CSA or CSA organizations accept food stamps, work out installment payment plans, have work- exchange options, do trades, and solicit scholarships for those who cannot pay for a share. Many give excess produce to the local food share. Your CSA will welcome your energy in organizing any aspect of service.

12. Organization—Some CSAs are run by an active core group of volunteer members. Some are run by the farmers who own the land, with a group of formal advisors or informal input. Some are run by boards of directors. How might its management style affect you, the consumer-partner?

13. Environmental Sensitivity—Where does the farm get its water? Does the farm use organic manure? How close are other farms that use pesticides?

CSA farms are run by people funded only by a very large heart and rich vision—and the help of consumer-partners who share that vision. For us CSA members, it’s a win-win situation. Many of us have noticed that our health is significantly better, our pocketbooks are rejoicing and our vote for the earth is really counting. Community- Supported Agriculture: A Wise Choice for Your Family


What you can do:

Here is a list of CSAs to call in Colorado:

Monroe Organic Farm, 970-284-7941: delivery to the Denver metro area, Boulder, Greeley, Ft. Collins

Happy Heart Farm in Ft. Collins, 970-482-3448

Sunrise Farm & CSA Garden, 970-679-4274

Stonebridge Farm in Lyons, 303-823-9561

Hedgerow Farm in Boulder, 303-666-4566

Peach Valley CSA in Silt, 970-876-2850

Prairie Farm in Platteville, 970-785-6061

White Mountain Farm, 800-364-3019 or 719-378-2436