February may not be the time of year when you’re thinking about fresh Cowichan cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries… but if you’re interested in joining a CSA this season, now is precisely the time to sign up and start thinking about local produce!
What is a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture or “CSA” is a term that has come to represent a range of direct farm marketing partnerships where community members support their local farm by pre-paying for a season’s worth of produce. Members usually pay in advance for a set amount and then, in turn, receive a weekly share of produce starting later in the spring and over the course of the season, as the harvest comes in. The concept began out east over 30 years ago as a way for community members to better connect with local food and farmers. Today CSA programs take on many formats and may contain much more than vegetables, including items such as bread, eggs, and more. Here in the Cowichan we even have a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) that works the same way, as well as the Happy Goat cheese club which is also a type of CSA.
Harvest Box and Farm Friend Card
On our farm, we have two forms of CSA: a Harvest Box program and our Farm Friend Card. The Harvest Box is a more traditional CSA where members pay in advance for 16 weeks of produce. Then starting in June they receive a box of fresh seasonal vegetables every week up until mid-October. Our Farm Friend Card, on the other hand, is a more modern take on the CSA and is akin to a pre-paid debit card: customers purchase a card for a set amount in the winter or early spring and then use it throughout the season to purchase produce from us at the farmer’s market.
Regardless of the format, CSA programs are very beneficial to farmers as they help us with early season planning (“How many carrots should I grow this year?”) as well as all those early season expenses such as seeds and supplies. This is why CSA Day was started! In 2015 a bunch of CSA farms realized it would be great to remind folks that it’s time to sign up for the coming season good and early, so they started CSA Day on the last Friday of February. The movement has taken off and now more people sign up for their local CSA on this day than any other across North America. You can find more information about CSA Day and even search for a CSA program in your area at csaday.info.
Here in the Cowichan, there are a number of CSA programs and I encourage you to check them out sooner rather than later. Find a program that is the right fit for you and your family, and connect with a local farm- it’s a great way to eat local and support our Cowichan farmers! And sign up now- it’s not too early! www.tatloroadfarm.com
Niki Strutynski is the owner/ operator of Tatlo Road Farm, a Certified Organic vegetable farm in Crofton.