Choosing a farm with CSA shares by Sangeeta Gupta
I have lived in big cities all my life, far removed from any farmland. So I rarely made the connection between the food I ate and the source it came from. When we moved to Urbana five years ago with our two young girls, I found House in the Woods, a local organic farm that offered “On the Farm Classes” for children.
At the first class, I realized this was going to be as much a learning experience for me as it would be for my children. Upon arrival, we saw a variety of pollinators – monarch butterflies, bumblebees and honeybees flying in and out of the many rows of pollinator-friendly plants. We learned about organic farming practices such as the emphasis on biodiversity of the agricultural system and the use of crop rotation to manage “weeds”. When I asked about fertilizer, Farmer Phil responded, "Don’t think of fertilizing in terms of feeding the plants, but rather feeding the soil, which hosts a large web of life necessary for plant growth.” This trust in, and deference to nature, was perhaps my first (and most important) learning experience.
Throughout the class series, we planted sweet potato slips, we fed goats, we harvested salad greens, and we even made our own salad dressing. But it was during our visit on the final class to “Candy Lane”– a row of the sweetest, tiniest tomatoes – that I knew I wasn’t ready for our farm experience to end. Thankfully, living near House in the Woods Farm afforded me the opportunity to purchase shares with them. I was not familiar with the term then, but that was my first introduction to Community Supported Agriculture, or a CSA.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allows consumers to directly support local farms by purchasing “Farm Shares” before the growing season. These upfront payments allow farmers to purchase seed and any equipment needed to begin the season. CSA members share the risk of production, just as they share the harvest. In essence, shareholders support the farmers to allow them to grow fresh produce for them in the upcoming season.
From early spring crops like leafy greens and kohlrabi to late fall vegetables like sweet potatoes and pumpkins, being a part of the CSA has allowed us to appreciate eating seasonally. My children loved watching the sweet potato slips they planted in the early growing season yield the most delicious sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. We picked weekly flowers and seasonal U-Pick crops, such as snap peas, green beans, and those sugary-sweet candy tomatoes, an extra-fun perk of being a CSA member.
Knowing where our food comes from and respecting all the hard work that goes into growing each bite has encouraged healthy eating habits and better nutrition choices for my whole family. That we can be part of a local farm that works in concert with nature is also very important to us.
Visit House in the Woods Farm to learn more and sign up for this year’s CSA shares.
Even though House in the Woods Farm is a great fit for our family, I urge you to research your family’s needs and find a local CSA that fits yours. For other CSA options in the county, see Homegrown Frederick.
For more information about local, sustainable food near Urbana, visit our webpage.
Part 2 on Local Foods: Ordering fresh from the farm...online coming soon.
Sangeeta is a founding member of Green Team Urbana.