What is Community Supported Agriculture anyway? It's certainly a mouthful, so people usually say CSA. This is a growing movement to connect city folk with agricultural land and workers in a relationship of supportive interdependence. In other words, it's a way to support local farms and farmers and GET THEM TO GROW THE STUFF YOU WANT TO EAT.

Oh, you mean organic food? Since most people who are thinking about what's on their plates want their food to be organic at a minimum, most CSA farms are organic and/or biodynamic. But it's more than that. The "farm members"—the people who eat the food—support the farm financially by paying UP FRONT for several weeks or even a year's worth of produce, and they are rewarded by getting their produce PRACTICALLY RIGHT OFF THE FIELD. Some CSAs do offer U-Pick and they all have farm events for their members so that people can bring their kids and cousins and show them where food comes from.

Why should I pay up front for my food? Farmers typically go into debt EVERY YEAR in order to pay for seeds, equipment and labor, all of which has to be paid for BEFORE the harvest. CSA wants to take control of farming away from banks and big corporations and put it in the hands of real people like you and me. You want the power to influence how your food is grown, even to help select varieties, like AMAZING HEIRLOOM WATERMELONS and TOMATOES like your grandma grew—then you've got to put up the money, baby. Are you happy eating flavorless, uniform-size, picked several weeks too early, supermarket organics, well then let the big guys choose for you.

Is it expensive? The short answer is no. The cost is about the same as shopping at the farmer's market, and A LOT LESS than shopping at the supermarket. Why? You're cutting out the middle man.

Why shouldn't I just shop at the farmer's market? Well, you should and you still will. No farm can grow all your food unless you're really into canning and freezing. But CSA is a better way to support farms because there is no waste. Everything they pick gets sold and used. Farms going to market generally have to pick twice what they will sell. The rest is a loss. The reality is farms would rather sell to a supermarket if they can get a decent price because then they sell everything and they don't have to stand around all day at a market when they really need to be on the farm farming.

Okay, I want to join a CSA farm. What will I get? Farm members typically receive a "share" of produce every week. It is strictly seasonal and the farms can tell you what they grow when. In this area, you'll be getting strawberries April through June, you'll get tomatoes July through October, you'll get greens October through May, and so on. You'll also get a lot of great stuff you've never tried before! Chocolate persimmons, cherrycots, rutabagas, fennel, sweet salad turnips, misome (a great Asian green like bok choi)... these are a few things my farm grows. Most farms try to maintain a consistent quantity of produce every week, and you can sometimes choose a box size. Some farms, such as my farm, Eatwell Farm, allow you receive a box only every other week to give you more time to use up the produce. It used to be that if a crop failed, you simply received less produce. Now most CSAs buy from other organic farms to improve their quantity and variety. They'll tell you about this in the newsletter when they do.

How does the food get to me? Some CSAs have a central pickup point. Others will deliver straight to your door.

Will I get recipes? Yes, CSAs give you recipes, especially for the less common fruits and veggies. CSAs publish newsletters with news from the farm and information about the food.

Can I get eggs, raw milk, cheese, meat, grains? Some farms offer these items as add-ons or as separate shares. You may need to join more than one farm to meet all your local produce needs. This page will be a resource to help you find the farmers. Remember, farmers are busy people. Make it easy for them to sell to you and they'll reward you with wonderful food.

CSAs serving the Davis area

CSAs formerly serving the Davis area

You can also check out the California online Local Food Guide. It's updated regularly and run by a local nonprofit, Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

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2005-10-28 12:49:45   Anyone university affiliated interested in splitting a student farm veggie basket membership with us? We split with our landlord a few times, and would really like to continue, but we aren't University affiliates. Also, does anyone have experience with any of these CSAs and care to share their feelings? —JessicaLuedtke

A medium box from Terra Firma Farm has about a dozen items every week, ranging in quantity from a half a pound (bunch of grapes, three Japanese eggplants) to three pounds (mini watermelon, butternut squash). Everything is organic or from fields transitioning to organic. It serves two amply, usually with enough for a small dinner party as well. There are three pick-up sites in Davis—the Farm itself is in Winters. —JudithTruman

2006-12-20 14:36:40   I have been trying to get on board with the Student Farm baskets but I can't get a response. Does anyone know if there is a wait list or a way to sign up? —ScottWeintraub

There is a waitlist and i think i takes about a year :?. You can try emailing [[email protected]], but they are students and might be on break right now. —ArlenAbraham

I just got an email saying that their email was down for a while, but the waiting list is "going to take at least a year at this point, unless we decide to increase the size of the CSA." A year long waitlist? Dang. They must grow great kale. —ScottWeintraub

2007-02-02 11:24:38   I've been getting a veggie basket for 4 or 5 years from Student Farm, and I believe that it is truly the best benefit ever to being married to a UCD grad student. The baskets are hearty - more than enough for 2 people for a week. Yes, a ton of kale. We got a juicer to cope with all the produce, which is a great complementary investment. I love this CSA because your money is going directly to help students learn to farm. It's amazing to feel like you're investing in the next generation of farmers who will grow food for your kids someday. —JoRo