Lisa Abraham

It may seem like a lot of money to pay now for vegetables that you won’t be seeing until June, but if you want to take part in a CSA this summer, now is the time to reserve your spot.

CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It is a farm share. You pay a farmer now to buy a share of his or her crops when they come in this summer.

Most shares cost between $300 and $600 for 18 to 20 weeks, although some that offer meat, eggs and baked goods can run twice as much. Most farmers offer full and half shares, and can tell you how much food to expect in each.

Last year, the Beacon Journal became a shareholder in Debbie Fox’s White House Gardens farm in Sharon Center Township.

For 18 weeks readers were able to see what kind of produce was included in our weekly CSA box, and our food section included a recipe for preparing something different each week with the produce.

Fox’s harvest schedule is not too different from other farmers, so what was showing up in our box was comparable to the kinds of produce that was at farmers markets and farm stands too.

One of the most frequent comments I heard from readers at the end of the season was to please remind them next year when it was time to sign up for their own share, and now is that time.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to buy into a farm share. You will be getting a lot of produce each week. Be prepared to cook it, freeze it or give it away; otherwise, you may find it going bad before you have time to eat it all. If you aren’t into cooking, you may want to think twice about joining a CSA.

Farmers grow a wide variety of vegetables. Some of them you may love, some not so much, some you might never have heard of before. Regardless, you’ll get them each week, so be open to trying new things if you join.

Many CSAs have some type of work requirement, so prepare to spend some time on the farm, planting, picking, weeding or packing vegetable boxes.

Along with the feast of a CSA comes the famine too. When heavy rains prevented Fox from getting seed into the ground last May, our June shares were small. Owning a share of the farm means sharing the risk.

The benefits to belonging to a CSA can’t be measured in tomatoes and squash. Aside from all of the produce you will get, a farm share is a great way to support the local agricultural economy and community.

By selling shares in advance, farmers get the working capital they need now to buy seed and other supplies as spring is arriving. They will have sold their crops in the winter, rather than having to sell them in the summer when they are busy growing them.

Most importantly are the friendships you will develop with your farmer and with other CSA members as you spend the summer sharing the bounty with them.

Here are some websites to locate a CSA in your area.

• www.localharvest.org/csa/

• www.ec-ohio.com/csa.html

• www.greenpeople.org

• www.oeffa.org

Lisa Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or at labraham@thebeaconjournal.com.