For proof that interest in local food remains on the rise, perhaps there’s no better place to look than community-supported agriculture farm shares. For a seasonal fee paid in early spring, CSA members receive a share of a local farm’s output all season long via a weekly supply of produce or meats and other farm products. According to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and its Appalachian Grown Producer Survey, only 12 Southern Appalachian farms offered CSAs in 2002. In 2018, local foodies can pick from 124 CSA shares throughout the region.
How to decide from such an array? Enter ASAP’s CSA Fair on Thursday, March 15, 3-6 p.m. at New Belgium Brewing Co. Fifteen farms will be there, each with weekly pickup locations in Buncombe County. (Find every WNC and Southern Appalachian farm offering a 2018 CSA through ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.) The fair provides a chance for prospective buyers to find their farm match by spending a few minutes talking with farmers about the style of CSA they offer, the foods they produce and their growing methods.
Many farms offer a traditional share, in which the farmer selects the items to be included in each week’s CSA and delivers boxes to set pickup locations (such as a farmers market or workplace). But according to event coordinator Robin Lenner, WNC farmers offer more flexible and diverse CSA options every year.
“Now, you can choose a market share, where you still pay upfront but get to decide for yourself the foods you want each week and shop for them directly at your farmers tailgate market booth,” she explains. “Other farms offer half shares for individuals or families worried they can’t eat all the produce in a week, while still others offer season extensions, including fall shares chock-full of sweet potatoes and root veggies.”
Some CSA farms focus on salad fixings, some on fresh and cured meats, and some even specialize in flowers. That means it’s possible to find the perfect fit no matter one’s lifestyle and food preferences.
Lenner stresses that the fair isn’t just a place for those familiar with CSAs to find their ideal farm but also for those who’ve never heard of or tried a farm share to learn about the process. “It’s a fun, informal, low-pressure environment,” she says. “People can talk easily with farmers and discover how eating locally with a CSA directly benefits their farming neighbors as well as their own family.”
Find your farmer
What: ASAP’s Eighth Annual CSA Fair
When: Thursday, March 15, 3-6 p.m.
Where: New Belgium Brewing Co., 21 Craven St., outside on the green weather permitting
Why: To sign up for a weekly box of farm-fresh produce or meats this growing season.
Details: The fair is free to attend. For more information, including a list of participating farms, visit asapconnections.org.