Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) 

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Buying into community-supported agriculture (CSA) is no simple decision, although it’s a worthy one. CSA purchasers buy shares of their selected farm up front, which gives farms needed seasonal start-up cash. In sharing the risks and rewards of the bounty, people receive locally produced, seasonal fruits, vegetables and meats at designated drop-offs. It’s like buying stock in a company—except that the dividends are delicious.

With 24 local farms offering CSA options on the CSAUtah.com Website—each one unique in its history, practices, prices, delivery options and available crops—it can seem daunting. Calling farmers and asking questions or attending open houses is an excellent start. A spreadsheet at CSAUtah.org/Find-a-CSA offers a complete list with a complementary map, along with information on delivery options. “There is no one right answer [in selecting a CSA], just like shoes and cars,” says Jeff Williams, CSA Utah Great Salt Lake RC&D Coordinator. “We all need and like different things. Honesty and integrity are some intangibles to consider.”

Bell Organic, for example, started in 1998 with a shovel and a half-acre of dirt; this year it hopes to have 500 CSA members. Co-owner Jill Bell says the spirit of collaboration among local farmers is high, and she encourages participant responsibility in decision making, no matter the farm.

“The truth is: You cannot be too much of a control freak,” Bell says. “You have to like and want the adventures that food and life can bring. Looking for a relationship putting customer and business-owner on equal footing—as opposed to the customer coming first at whatever the cost—is also important.

“The CSA model is supposed to create a relationship between farmer and food-eater, and if you’re not good at relationships, maybe it’s not the model for you.”

Would-be shareholders can generally purchase through April and into May, although most farms offer discounts for early spending. 

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