As I’m sure you already know, I love supporting local business. I could talk about that all day, but I’ll spare you since I’m pretty sure I just did that last week. Something that I haven’t written about yet, but that I also love, is local food. That is, buying things that are grown locally. I must confess that although this is something that I love, I usually don’t go out of my way to do it. Wegmans, where I do a lot of my grocery shopping, oftentimes carries seasonal produce from local farms, so I just try to buy that whenever I see it. And even though that feels good, I still have always felt like there must be more that I could do to support the farms around the Binghamton area.
My husband and I had heard about CSA’s in the past (CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture), and were intrigued by the idea, but never really took it any further than that. So when I saw a poster last week advertising a Binghamton CSA fair to be held downtown, I got, shall we say, pretty pumped. It was held this past Saturday in the Metrocenter atrium in downtown Binghamton. As a result of attending the fair, not only did I learn all about CSA’s and how they work, I also felt like I broadened my horizons in general and learned about some really encouraging and positive things that are going on in the greater Binghamton area. And now I will share it all with you.
When we walked into the atrium of the Metrocenter that day, I was surprised to see that it was actually pretty busy. There were probably about 10 tables set up all around, each with a display about the farm that they represented and information about that farm’s CSA setup. After talking to pretty much all of the farms, I felt like I had a much better understanding of what a CSA actually is, and how one typically works.
Usually, farms encourage people to sign up for their CSA in the springtime (March-April). This allows them to better prepare for the upcoming season. When you sign up, you would pay for what they call a “share” of the farm (and many farms offer a half share option for smaller households). That is exactly what it sounds like–you are actually paying to receive a share of the crops that the farm produces during that growing season. Most of the CSA’s run for around 20 weeks, starting in June and ending sometime in October, give or take a few weeks.
When choosing which CSA you want to go with, there are several things to consider. Thankfully, the Binghamton CSA fair was run by some really helpful people who gave me a handout that had all of the different things that were important to find out about each CSA, in a sort of grid format (for taking notes, which my inner nerd totally ate up). The different considerations were price, organic/not organic, whether there is any work required (some CSA’s require you to put in a little bit of work on the farm, at the market, or maybe even from your home), just vegetables or fruit as well, whether they offer eggs, meat, or dairy, and also pick-up location. Some CSA’s require that you pick up at the farm, whereas others have designated places where you would go to pick up your box of produce each week (a farmer’s market, church parking lot, etc.). Another difference is the variety within your box each week–do they pick it all out for you, or do you get to make selections based on what specific things you want? I’m sure there are some things I’m forgetting, but you get the idea.
Being a part of a CSA connects you to a local farm in a very real, tangible way. You are getting the majority of your food from one specific location, and you know where that place is and who runs it. So there is a trust that is built, a relationship that you would never have if you simply bought groceries at a store. There is also something really amazing about knowing that you are supporting a local farm every day by what you eat. The way I see it, I’m going to be spending that money anyway, so I might as well know who it’s going to and put it back into my area.
***Be sure to check tomorrow’s blog post for the rest of my thoughts on the whole CSA idea, links to the CSA’s that were featured at the Binghamton CSA Fair, as well as a list of local farmer’s markets in the Binghamton area!!