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Can’t Find Your Green Thumb? Then Try a CSA

March 26, 2010

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

garden handSo growing your own backyard garden is out of the question, right? Many of our readers say as much. But just because you don’t have the green thumb or time or space to develop and manage your own garden, you still have excellent options for accessing fresh, local produce.

While grocery stores are doing a better job at carrying local produce, a relatively new option is community-supported agriculture (CSA). A different model of farming and food distribution, local CSAs consist of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farm becomes the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of their food production. CSA’s focus is usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit, sometimes dairy products, meat and value-added foods.

A CSA may not necessarily have started as a community effort with individuals pledging to support a farm operation. Sometimes it simply emerges because a small produce farmer, already supplying farmers’ markets and restaurants, decides to add on a CSA to his or her mix of direct-market agriculture options.

Executive Director of Community Food Connections, Cindy Gentry, says the demand for CSAs continues to grow. “We get five calls a month to start new farmers ’ markets, the more traditional vehicle for accessing local produce. But there are simply not enough farmers to participate in additional farmers markets in our state. Instead, the best bet to get local, fresh produce and know it is coming directly from the farmer is to get involved in a CSA.”

And they’re not too hard to find. Simply go to http://www.fillyourplate.org and plug in your zip code or city. Based on the local farmers in your area that come up on your computer screen, search their product offerings and see if they have a CSA. Then, give them a call so you can join their CSA.

One of our CSA farmers on Fill Your Plate is Kelly Saxer with Desert Roots Farm. Managing 33 acres out in Queen Creek, Arizona, Kelly has 300 customers that purchase shares for each growing season. She finds the effort rewarding and discovered her love for farming while helping her grandpa out in his garden when she was a child. To check out Kelly’s operation directly go to http://www.desertrootsfarm.com.

Adds Gentry, “It’s a chance to try food you may never have bought before. Many will provide you with recipes; and you can’t get it any fresher since it’s directly from the farm.”

Editor’s note: Do you belong to a CSA? If so, email Julie Murphree at juliemurphree@azfb.org and share your story including how long you’ve been part of one and what meals do you cook with the vegetables you receive.

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Arizona Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving and improving the Agriculture industry through member involvement in education, political activities, programs and services.

For more information contact Julie Murphree at (480) 635-3607 or go to http://www.azfb.org.

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