Growing a community garden isn’t possible for everyone. Some people just don’t have the time or have physical limitations that keep them from digging in the dirt. When you can’t grow fruits and veggies with your neighbors or in your own backyard, a CSA (community supported agriculture) program lets anyone enjoy the bounty of the harvest without the commitment of tending to a garden week after week.
Community supported agriculture takes the concept of farm-to-table directly to the kitchen. Each week, local farms pack up boxes of vegetables, meat or eggs for customers who have paid for a season’s worth of produce in advance. The public picks up the boxes (also known as shares) at a designated location every week.
Home cooks can count on farm-fresh produce as the season progresses, ranging from hearty bunches of kale to juicy tomatoes. Farmers can rely on the stability that comes with regular customers who pay at the beginning of the season when the costs of seeds and soil amendments are most pressing. It’s a win/win for those who love local food, whether they’d prefer to grow it or cook it.
On Thursday, March 13, from 3-6 p.m., Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will host its annual CSA fair at Jubilee! Community in downtown Asheville. It’s a chance to meet farmers from all over the region as they gear up for the growing season. More than a dozen farmers who specialize in everything from asparagus to heritage pork (in addition to a wide array of vegetables) will come together to spread the word about the products they will offer this season.
Potential customers will have the opportunity to ask questions, learn about farmers’ practices and philosophies and generally get to know their growers. “It really is one of the best opportunities for the public, customers and folks who are interested in local food to connect face to face with CSA farms,” says Mike McCreary, Asheville City Market manager and co-coordinator of ASAP’s CSA fair.
For anyone who cherishes the conversations they have with farmers at summer tailgate markets, the CSA fair is like catching up with old friends. It’s a chance to find out what farmers have been up to during the winter months and what new varieties of vegetables they’ll be growing this season.
These kinds of interactions foster a deep connection to the region’s local food economy by encouraging personal relationships between growers and customers. “I think the biggest advantage is that connection to the individual farms,” says McCreary. “Some CSA customers who have shares, they’re in a relationship for years with these farms. They can visit. They can get to know the folks who are growing their food.”
Summer’s bounty may seem like a distant dream, but zucchini will be ripening on the vine before you know it. Signing up for a CSA guarantees plenty of vegetables for the dinner table while making sure local farmers have the funds they need to feed us all.