Farm fresh produce may be easier to find these days with a bountiful selection of local farmers markets but, sometimes, it’s just hard to make time to hit the grocery store, much less the farmers market. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a weekly flow of fresh local produce that you could count on? There is such a thing, and its called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.
CSAs are mutually beneficial relationships formed between farmers and consumers, in which a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public — typically a limited number that are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. The shares consist of produce and other farm products and are delivered to the consumers weekly — typically during the warmer weather months. The CSA season begins around April and concludes in late November, so this year’s season is already half-way completed. Enrollment for most CSA memberships takes place pre-season, so while it is too late to participate this year, we encourage you to begin looking into one of the many CSA programs in the Memphis area now to reserve your spot for next season.
The idea for CSAs originated from the community garden concept: People within a community would help support a farmer through the winter, and receive fresh produce in return. Consumers can enjoy fresh food while farmers receive payment earlier in the season than usual. Even though the CSA concept has evolved, it still achieves its original goal of helping to promote a sense of community between farmers and consumers.
It is important to note that while there are many benefits to participating in CSAs, there also are some risks. For most CSAs, members pay up front for the entire season but if produce growth is hampered by weather, a freak crop disease or other problem, members are usually not reimbursed. The idea of shared risk helps to foster a sense of community between the seller and the buyer and means that when the farmer suffers an upset, members do, as well. When things go smoothly, everyone celebrates.
A CSA box may include flowers, in addition to fruits, vegetables or other products produced at the farm.
As CSAs have become more popular, farmers have started to create variations to the original CSA model, giving members more freedom to choose what they want to go into their box. In addition, many of the variations of CSAs include products other than vegetables. For example, at Sweet Grass, owner Ryan Trimm has created a kind of CSA known as Chef Supported Agriculture. The idea behind Chef Supported Agriculture is to give consumers more variety, as opposed to just offering a few types of vegetables each week. A farmer only grows a couple of crops at a time, so a single farmer cannot offer a wide variety to the consumer. For this reason, restaurants have to order from several different farmers. So when ordering various products for the restaurant menu, Trimm orders extras and creates his Chef Supported Agriculture boxes. Trimm’s packages include: produce from a couple of farmers, a local product, something made by Sweet Grass and a recipe. Similar to regular CSAs, Chef Support Agriculture by Sweet Grass is delivered once a week for eight weeks.
Although Chef Supported Agriculture is the most extreme variation of the classic CSA, there are many other twists on the original model. Some farms include flowers in their CSA packages, while others include eggs or meat. Moreover, some farms allow members to personalize their CSAs so that they only receive items that they want.
There are many CSAs within the Memphis area for those looking to enjoy the best of Mid-South produce while supporting our local agri-business. Here are a handful to get your feet wet in the so-cool CSA waters.
Bring It Food Hub is a third-party CSA service, which means it sources produce from multiple farmers, giving subscribers a larger variety of local fruits, vegetables and occasional staples
Season: May through November
Cost: Classic for $20 per week or Deluxe for $35 per week; both require a one-month minimum
Pick Up: Tuesday through Friday at various locations throughout the Memphis area
As well as fresh produce, Delta Sol Farm offers a selection of beautiful flowers to their CSA members. Nothing brightens up a home like a vibrant bouquet of locally grown flowers!
Season: May through November
Pick Up: Delta Sol Farm in West Memphis, Arkansas; a Memphis location is being determined
Lazy Dogs Farm brings the farm to you, literally! This CSA membership is one of the few that offers delivery directly to your house for an additional charge. The folks at Lazy Dog Farms also offer a CSA called the “Share a Share Program.” Share a Share members pay an additional five dollars a week, which allows the farmers to provide less fortunate families in the Shelby County area and around their farm with CSA shares.
Season: May through September
Cost: $640 for weekly delivery or $425 for biweekly delivery
Pick up: Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday
This CSA is more than just a weekly vegetable delivery; it’s also a mutually beneficial relationship between the farmer and consumer. Roots Memphis emphasizes the importance of bringing the entire community together through the CSA program where residents can enjoy fresh produce grown locally by a familiar face!
Season: April through October
Cost: Three types of shares available: Silver for $20 per week, Gold for $35 per week, and Platinum for $50 per week
Sweet Grass has taken the classic CSA to the next level with their unique spin on the idea. Chef Supported Agriculture provides members with a wider variety of fresh produce, as well as a few other delicious items prepared in the Sweet Grass kitchen.
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and late Fall; each program lasts eight weeks
Cost: Small bag at $36 per season and large bag at $480 per season
Pick Up: Sweet Grass
Members of the Tubby Creek Farm CSA can expect a variety of fresh, seasonal vegetables each week. Additionally, members of the vegetable CSA can choose to add whole broiler chickens or farm fresh eggs to their shares. Full egg shares are available for $154.50 per season and half egg shares for $77.25 per season. A broiler chicken share includes one whole, frozen chicken per month with prices ranging from $41.20 per season in the Spring to $61.80 per season in the Summer and Fall.
Seasons: April through November (Sign up for each season; Spring, Summer and Fall, are separate)
Cost: $25.75 per week for full share or $15.45 per week for half
Pick up: Wednesday at the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship on the University of Memphis Campus; at Wholesale Nutrition in Collierville, Tennessee; or at Tubby Creek Farm in Ashland, Mississippi.
Through purchasing CSAs, we are able to enjoy some of the best and freshest flavors of the seasons. And partnering with the folks who grow that food? Well, that’s the icing on the cake!
Fresh and local — that’s StyleBlueprint! Subscribe to our emails today!