By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
If you’re a regular Saratoga Farmers’ Market shopper, chances are you’ve seen flyers at vendor stalls promoting CSAs. The acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Its meaning, however, goes even deeper.
CSAs offer consumers the opportunity to form a direct relationship with a farmer by purchasing what is known as a “share” in the foods that the farmer produces. Typically, consumers – or CSA members – pay a set fee to a farm, and in exchange, receive a share of the farm’s produce on a weekly basis.
Money up front helps farmers cover costs of seeds, soil amendments, and other supplies before bringing produce to market. Members reap the harvest of their investment from farmers when they receive their share of the farm’s seasonal bounty.
“I love CSA,” says Justine Denison of Denison Farm. “It provides both the consumer/member and the farmer a unique and direct relationship, not found anywhere else in the marketplace. Both parties benefit financially and socially through a healthy and efficient partnership.”
Denison’s vegetable boxes cost $575 for 22 weeks, though the farm offers other pricing options. The boxes can be picked up at the farmers’ market or other locations, and typically includes vegetables for two adults and two children. Fruit and egg shares also are available.
Mark Bascom of Owl Wood called his farm’s CSA program a chance “to build customer loyalty.” Owl Wood offers purchasers the option of either receiving a box of produce or a market share at a price of $500 for 20 weeks. For market shares, purchasers can choose what items to place in the box.
CSAs began in Japan, Holland, and Switzerland in the 1960s, and spread to the United States in the 1980s. According to New York City-based Just Food, CSAs currently feed about 150,000 people nationwide.
While some farmers require weekly pickups, Bob and Mary Pratt of Elihu Farm have adopted a more flexible practice egg CSA. Customers can estimate how many eggs they might purchase over the course of a season, and pay that price up front, with a 50 cent per dozen discount. “I loved it,” said Lenore Reber, an Elihu customer. “I was supporting the farm, and I always knew I would be able to get eggs.”
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at High Rock Park.
Most CSAs begin in June, though some farmers offer year-round shares. Here is a list of some Saratoga Farmers’ Market vendors who offer CSAs. Visit the individual farmers for further details about their specific programs.
Denison Farm (Saturdays)
Elihu Farm (eggs) (Saturdays)
Fresh Take Farm (Wednesdays)
Gomez Veggie Ville (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Malta Ridge Orchard & Gardens (Saturdays)
Owl Wood Farm (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Spring CSA Soup
Adapted from recipe by Samin Nosrat in New York Times
Serves: 6 to 8
*Ingredients currently available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market
• 4 Tablespoons of olive oil*
• 2 medium onions, sliced*
• 3 garlic cloves, sliced*
• 6 to 8 cups diced vegetables (see seasonal recommendations below)*
• 1½ pounds raw boneless chicken*
• 6 to 8 cups chicken stock*
• Salt and pepper to taste
- Set a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat and add 4 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add onions and garlic.
- Reduce the heat to a medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Place the chicken and vegetables in the pot. Add enough chicken stock to cover. Season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cook until the flavors have come together and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more. Remove raw chicken from soup when cooked, allow to cool enough to handle. Shred and return it to the soup.
- Add more hot liquid if needed.
- Serve hot.
Suggested spring vegetables: asparagus, carrots, parsnips, leeks, potatoes, kale, cabbage, mushrooms, rutabaga, and fresh herbs as a garnish.