As a CSA newbie I’ve been pleasantly impressed with my experience thus far. I only recently became familiar with CSA programs, and am embarrassed to admit I initially had difficulty remembering what the acronym stood for. On Tuesdays when asked my plans for the evening I fumbled to explain why I was going to pick up a large assortment of vegetables. Now I can confidently say that I’m a member of a Community Supported Agriculture organization, and I no longer have to describe it as the wonderful ‘local veggie program’ I belong to.
The sense of community and bountiful variety of veggies we receive each week have made me realize why our 6th Street CSA has been thriving for 18 years. CSA programs have been around even longer however, and the concept is actually an international transplant from Europe. Community Supported Agriculture practices were introduced to the U.S. in the mid-80’s by Swiss born Vander Tuin and German born Trauger Groh. Their farmer-friendly knowledge was first spread through Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where the first two CSA programs were independently founded. CSA programs began to pop up throughout the rest of the country with most programs organized in New England, the Northwest, the Pacific Coast, the upper Midwest and Canada. The U.S. is now proudly home to 12,549 CSA farms, and as the country strives to become more environmentally conscious that number is sure to increase.
The first CSA program in NYC was started in 1991 by Roxbury Farm, not long before our own 6th Street CSA was organized in 1996. Our relationship with Hepworth Farms and Catalpa Ridge Farms is a special one. While volunteering for a Tuesday pick-up shift, I had the pleasure of meeting some of our long time members. One member I met had originally joined during the late 1990’s, took a brief break, but rejoined not long after because of the quality and variety of products that our farms provide. As community members we help these farms make the most of the season, and the farms so generously provide us with our produce basics and new veggies to experiment with. The mutual benefits for farmers and the communities that support them is what makes CSA programs so unique and exciting, as progress is made to develop the world as a more sustainable place. To be part of a CSA is something special, and our own ‘local veggie program’ is one to be proud of.