What is a CSA

by AMANDA BENKER Owner of Dome Grown Produce

CSA is one of those acronyms you see and hear about everywhere, and feel like you should know what it stands for — like the FDA or IRS. It is a concept that has been around for a while but is gaining in popularity as people are yearning to eat fresher, healthier and support the local food economy. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. What is it you may ask? It is a direct way for the community to buy a ‘share’ of a local farm. The farmer receives payment upfront for a whole season of produce when they are planning, buying seeds and amendments and various tools and supplies for the year. Then in return, the farmer grows the produce for the season, ‘sharing’ the harvests with their customers over a season of about 18-22 weeks. This model allows the farmer to know the food grown is already sold, and it allows the consumer to eat fresh and know where their food is coming from. This model of agriculture also allows the farmers and consumers to share in the risks of farming. Some years could be lean and others have an abundance that everyone shares.

There are different styles of CSAs offered today by local farms. The original model and the most widely utilized is a Traditional CSA share. This type of share consists of a prepacked bag with a predetermined amount of produce each week, which varies according to seasons. It generally has six to ten items, which the customer picks up at the farm or a central location on a weekly basis. Some farms offer different sizes to accommodate peoples eating habits and household size. There’s standard size, small, large, half shares or bi-weekly pick-ups. Mahonia Gardens, located in Sisters, offers a Family Share and a Standard Share. You can also choose if you want a summer or fall. Another small farm, called Rooper Ranch in Redmond, offers a Full Share and allows customers to opt out of a weekly box in exchange for credit at the farmers market to customize a box. The traditional CSA share is a great option for households who really like to experiment and cook vegetables they might not always buy.

Another option of a CSA is called a Market Style share. These have been getting more popular due to customers wanting to have a little bit of a choice to their weekly shares. In this model the farmers may harvest extra of a few items and people can decide to add on an extra bundle or two, or farmers may choose to pack part of the share depending on harvest and then allow people to choose the other items. Some farms may even offer online ordering where you can fully customize your weekly box. The farmers run it like an online store and can update information based on what they will harvest that week.

Our farm, Dome Grown Produce, has decided to try a new option this season called Harvest Bucks. The customers buy cards in increments of $100 to use at our booth at the Bend Farmers Market and Redmond Farmers Market. We add on an extra ten percent for each $100 purchased and you become our special market members. The members get to pick exactly how much and what kind of produce they want to eat. We still get the important commitment from our members by knowing that a certain portion is sold, while the customers are eating fresh and supporting a local farm!


profile photo by Ian Smythe Photography
photos courtesy of Dome Grown Produce

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