As I was sitting down to begin planning for the upcoming season and contimplate the question of farmer's markets, I remembered there are a number of people who still look confused when I tell them what I do. The idea that I farm backyards always gets interested looks from people and they want to know how it works. I get even more confused looks when I explain that I grow for a CSA program. Many people ask, "Is that like a Co-op?" The answer is no and even more they are very different.
1. The biggest difference is a Co-op sources food from multiple farmers; it is closer to a farmer's market than a CSA. A CSA program is grown locally and usually by a single farmer or small group of local farmers. Some, like mine, are considered hyper-local. Most of my members and customers are within 5 miles of where I grow. In turn this helps boost and keep the local economy thriving.
2. Another significant difference is that a CSA focuses on a relationship with your local farmer. It allows you to reconnect to where your food is grown, how, and who grows it. Since a Co-op sources food from other states, wholesalers, etc., your relationship with the farm and farmer is what you would have in a grocery store...you will most likely never even meet the person who grew your food.
3. Another difference is that a Co-op can offer produce that is out of season since they resource from other states. CSAs are limited to the growing seasons and any season extention techniques they use, so shares feature seasonal produce.
4. CSA also implies risk. Because it is Community Supported Agriculture, the community and members share in some of the risk with the farmer. Risks can range from crop failure, weather initiated disaster, or other farm disasters. A Co-op doesn't experience this because of the national nature of their sourcing options similar to that of grocery stores.
There are a few great videos on you tube that help explain CSAs too. Check out:
What can you expect from your ONe 2 Grow On Farm CSA? Since we are in only our second year, you can expect to have a say in what is grown and how the CSA progresses. This is definitely intended to be a personalized experience.
Some of the challenges I approach each year go a little beyond what to grow in each plot. I utilize rotation prinicples, but I also don't have a green house as of yet. Seed starting is a systematic task that begins in February so that plants can be hardened off and planted with cover as soon as possible. Since my plots are not all within walking distance of my front door, I have to plan and factor in commuting time. This means that there are some plots that get plants later in the season or plants that I only visit once a week early on like squash or watermelon. The other plots get bombarded with successive plantings and green manure. All of this takes planning, planning, and more planning. I hope one day to have my own piece of paradise that I can work, but until then I have the next best thing.