Community Supported Agriculture, also known as CSAs or farm shares, has become an effective way for people to buy local, seasonal, organic food directly from a farmer. It’s a simple, community-building idea that has had a positive impact on communities and farmers alike. It also makes local, organic, seasonal foods accessible to many, and adds significant nutritional value to the diet. Because of the natural and soil-building practices of organic and biodynamic farms, the food produced on these farms can have much more nutrition than produce from a store.
In Colorado, we are lucky to have so many CSA options available to us. We are surrounded by many organic and biodynamic farms. The list below includes 13 of our favorite farms in and around Boulder and their CSA programs. It’s a good idea to start your research now to find the CSA that would work for you next spring, and know when they will begin selling shares for 2017. The shares go quickly so you’ll want to be in the loop when they go on sale! If you know the cost of the share ahead of time, you can be prepared financially to make the purchase when the time comes. Saving for a few months might be necessary, but remember: you’re paying up front for 5-6 months worth of fresh, organic, seasonal food – what a great gift to give yourself! And buying a CSA share for someone you love is great holiday gift idea.
This is how the typical CSA works:
- A farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public for purchase before the beginning of the growing season, typically May/June – October/November in Colorado.
- A new member will purchase a share and in return receive a portion of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
- Typically the share consists of vegetables, but other shares may be available, such as herbs, fresh cut flowers and fruit. Some farmers will also offer meat, eggs, raw dairy shares and even handmade goods (like soap and herbal medicine products).
- Eating seasonally may be different from what you’re used to, so a desire to cook and experiment with new foods is important.
- You may need to supplement the CSA share by buying additional produce from the store, depending on your family needs and eating habits.
- They spend time marketing the farm early in the year, before their long days in the field begin.
- They receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow: helping them to purchase seeds, cover labor costs and other expenses that can add up early in the season.
- The farmers have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow.
- You increase your consumption of ultra-fresh, organic, seasonal produce, meat, dairy and eggs, with a higher nutritional content.
- You expose yourself and your family to new foods and new ways of cooking, which also means a more broad spectrum of nutrients.
- You can participate in farm visits, which help to cultivate a relationship with the farmer who grows your food and offers an opportunity to learn more about how your food is grown.
- It’s a great opportunity to involve and educate children and adults alike about farming, community and nutrition.
Part of the agreement to pay up front for a CSA share includes the idea of shared risk. In most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundance of produce each week. The idea is for CSA members and farmers to feel like “they’re in this together”. This shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members and the farmers. Local Harvest explains this well on their website: “If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first.” On the flip side, if the farmer is successful with certain crops, you benefit by receiving a bigger share.
The following websites provide a wealth of information about what a CSA is, why you should join, basic facts to help you determine if a CSA share is right for you and which one to choose:
- WHAT IS A CSA?
- WHY JOIN A CSA?
- CSA FAQ
- THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE JOINING A CSA
- FIND A CSA NEAR YOU:
TOP 13 PICKS FOR FRONT RANGE FARM SHARES (or CSAs)
- 63rd Street Farm: Boulder, CO
Shares: vegetables, grass-fed lamb, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pastured poultry, eggs, raw goat’s milk, raw cow’s milk, wine share, coffee
- Cure: Boulder, CO
Shares: vegetables, fruit, flowers, coffee, wine, cheese and bread
- Growing Gardens: Boulder, CO
Shares: vegetable, fruit, mushroom, eggs
- Pastures of Plenty: Longmont, CO
Shares: vegetables, herbs, flowers, “treat of the week”
- Pachamama Farms: Longmont, CO
Shares: vegetables, flowers, fruit, herbs
- Isabelle Farm: Lafayette, CO
Shares: vegetables, fruit, coffee, bakery
- Aspen Moon Farms: Hygiene, CO
Shares: vegetables, fruit, herbs, flowers and eggs
- Frog Belly Farm: Longmont, CO
Shares: grass-fed meats, eggs, goat’s milk, fruit, vegetables, artisans product share, Pangea skincare products
- Red Wagon: Longmont, CO
Shares: vegetables, fruit, eggs, mushrooms, pastured beef, fair trade coffee
- The Lyons Farmette: Lyons, CO
Shares: vegetables, flowers, herbs
- Happy Heart Farms: Fort Collins, CO
Shares: vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, fruit, biodynamic meat, coffee
- Jacob Springs Farm: Boulder, CO
Shares: grass-fed meat (beef, pork, duck, lamb, chicken, rabbit), eggs, vegetables, fruit, herbs
- Raw Milk Association of Colorado
Shares: raw milk