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Boulder County Farmers Markets: At the market: Community Supported Agriculture brings locally grown foods to your house

Who wouldn’t want to pick up a fresh box of just-harvested veggies once a week? It’s like you’re on the TV show “Chopped,” but every ingredient in your basket is delicious fresh produce. (Kirsten Boyer / Boulder County Farmers Markets)
Who wouldn’t want to pick up a fresh box of just-harvested veggies once a week? It’s like you’re on the TV show “Chopped,” but every ingredient in your basket is delicious fresh produce. (Kirsten Boyer / Boulder County Farmers Markets)
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CSAs — Community Supported Agriculture — are becoming increasingly popular for farmers to sell their produce.

Maybe you’ve heard a friend talking about which farm they bought a CSA from this season, or maybe you’ve seen posters at the market advertising CSA sign-ups.

But what the heck is a CSA? We are here to explain this mysterious acronym and give you yet another option to shop locally.

What is a CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In the USDA’s words, it’s “a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.”

It’s basically community members investing in local farms so that both parties reap the stomach-rumbling benefits.

Community members purchase shares of a farm before the growing season begins, taking on some of the risks associated with growing food, like extreme weather, germination failure or labor shortages.

Maybe you’ve noticed, but Colorado weather is quite unpredictable. Upfront payment allows farmers access to financial capital before the harvest arrives, enabling them to invest in things like hiring staff, making upgrades to equipment and buying seed.

It also allows community members like you first dibs on the produce throughout the season. CSA shareholders receive a portion of the farm’s harvest, usually weekly, throughout the season without having to shop for themselves.

Weekly farm shares are piled high with whatever is fresh that week, and may involve some Googling on what to do with garlic scapes, or any other ingredient you may not be familiar with. It stretches your creative cooking capabilities in new, delicious ways.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the CSA model is the relationship that is formed between growers and consumers. Don’t we all just want to be friends with a farmer?

Getting creative with CSAs

As with most things, farmers go above and beyond. The basic CSA model has been enhanced by many Boulder County farmers.

Rather than just distributing produce from their property, farmers often include products from other local vendors. Think honey, mushrooms, flowers or even bread. Red Wagon Farm includes add-ons from Conscious Coffees, Hazel Dell Mushrooms and fruit from the Western Slope.

Farmers have adopted online interfaces that make customizing and ordering shares incredibly easy, like Aspen Moon Farm’s site called CSAware. These tech-savvy farmers give us zero excuses to skip eating local.

Wild Wellspring Farm and Monroe Organic Farms offer a winter CSA, and this summer, Wild Wellspring is offering a Preserving Share, which will include five community events to harvest and preserve five different crops. They hope to “show the community that you can also enjoy summer’s bounty in the depths of winter by putting food up when it is at its peak.”

Local CSAs

Many of the farmers who join us at our markets and on our online marketplace also have thriving CSA programs. We love seeing everyone at our markets, but when it comes to opportunities to buy local food we say: The more the merrier. Below are some incredible local farms you could buy a share from this summer:

Aspen Moon Farm — Located in Longmont, spots in the 18-week share of their organic and biodynamic produce are still available.

Ela Family Farms — Located in Hotchkiss, shares with pickup locations in Boulder and Longmont are available.

Miller Farms — Located in Platteville, shares can be delivered to your doorstep for a $5 fee.

Monroe Farm — Located in Kersey, members can expect to receive 10 to 60 pounds of organic produce each week June through October.

Red Wagon Farm — Located in Longmont, options for weekly, biweekly, large and “Friends of Red Wagon”  shares are available.

Stubborn Roots — Located outside Fort Collins, this CSA is intended to feed a couple of vegetable lovers or a household of four who uses vegetables daily in their diet from May to October.

The Boulder County community has shown us time and time again how invested they are in supporting local farmers and valuing local food, and a CSA is a great way to do just that. Community Supported Agriculture benefits farmers’ livelihood and locavores’ bellies.

We hope to see you at the markets this week! Stop by for a yoga class and a beer from Sanitas Brewing before your grocery shopping on Wednesday evening in Boulder. And get the full market effect on Saturday in Boulder or Longmont; complete your shopping list with a fresh pastry and coffee. If you’re interested in joining a CSA, we know our farmers will be glad to get you signed up.

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