As the weather starts to warm up and Spring is peeking out from behind a corner, many local farms are already in full swing. As crops begin to grow and vegetables come into season, several local farms are starting off their farming season with CSAs.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is a program in which local subscribers pay for shares of produce, which they receive on a weekly basis as crops are harvested. Typically, members help with delivery of the crops throughout the season and are able to develop relationships with the farmers and other subscribers, learning about local food growth and seeing how crops are produced. Subscribers enter into a contract with a farm for an entire season, thus ensuring income for the farmers and food such as vegetables, fruits and dairy for the customers.
Many Meadville residents prefer to patronize local farmers as opposed to large supermarket chains to obtain their produce. Subscribing to a local CSA offers an opportunity for people to promote community success and shop in an eco-friendly manner, by avoiding the need for commercial packaging and shipping of crops. ”I want to see the local farmers being successful,” one local subscriber stated. ”Joining the CSA has opened me up to a new community, and my vegetables are always fresh.”
This particular subscriber, who did not wish to be identified, was interviewed while buying produce at a local supermarket. She says that she will still buy some of her produce at the supermarket, due to the inconsistent nature of the CSA deliveries. Because crops are distributed as they are harvested, the types of food offered change each week and amounts vary. For some residents, these limitations that accompany CSA subscription discourage membership.
One local resident, Martha Stevens, enjoys using local produce but dislikes the structure and lack of accommodation associated with these programs. ”I travel for work, so I can’t always be here to pick up deliveries or use the food before it spoils. I also like the freedom to plan my own menu,” she stated in an email interview. Several area CSAs provide recipes each week to encourage subscribers to make use of the unfamiliar crops they may receive.
Ms. Stevens said that she tries to buy produce from farmers markets, but they frequently operate at times that are difficult to coordinate with her schedule. ”Buying local just isn’t convenient.” With an ever-increasing push to “go green” and buy local food, it remains to be seen how Meadville area farms will accommodate the growing demand and increasing constraints from consumers.