Today is the first day of our monthly deliveries. During the week, TC Farm members will pick up their food from one of over three dozen pick-up sites across the metro. If you've never belonged to a CSA, though, you might not know what to expect when picking up food from a CSA.
If you are looking to eat locally grown food, it's hard to do better than a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The way it works is that you join a farm (or a group) as a member. Then on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, it depends on the program) the group will deliver food from that farm. Sometimes directly to you. Almost always, to a pickup location. (A business or someone's house.)
CSAs are really great models for local farmers because they make sure farmers have a market for their food. (It can be hard to get into stores or farmer's markets.) They also help regular folks who want to eat better. By making a connection with the farmer and the farm, it also starts people thinking about how their food is grown. (Most of us are pretty disconnected and think: food comes from the store.)
This is all good stuff.
But sometimes, people are scared off from joining a CSA. It's all a little different than what they are used to. Going someplace new and picking up food each month can seem strange. New can be scary. I know... I am from Minnesota myself. Sometimes we are shy about doing new things.
With that in mind, we put together a few tips for people thinking of joining a CSA and wondering about pick ups. (Let us know what tips YOU have in the comments below!)
It might be a store or a coffee shop. It might be someone's porch or patio. It really depends on where you live and where you've chosen to pick up. Figure out what kind of place it is before you go the first time so you know what to expect!
There is usually a window for when you can pick up your meat or your veggies. Come too early and maybe the food hasn't been delivered yet. Come too late and you might have missed the window. (Since a lot of pickup sites are homes, people need to go to bed! And food can't be stored forever.)
There might be times when you are going to be out of town and not able to make your pickup window. Often, it makes sense to have a friend or neighbor pick up your food for you. (Pro tip: It's good manners to offer to share a little of that delicious food with someone if they help you out and pick up your food for you!)
Some farms like TC Farm allow you skip a delivery if you are going to be out of town or your freezer is simply getting too full! It happens.
What you don't want to do is let the food go to waste. Food is perishable. It would be a shame to have lettuce or corn or bacon sit out for too long just because you didn't come up with a backup plan. Often the farm can help make alternative plans if you need some help.
If you are at a home pickup site, it is more likely than not that no one will be there. Pick ups are set up to be self serve. You can go to the CSA pick-up site, find your food, mark off that you've picked it up and return home with delicious, food.
Usually, there is some way to mark off that you have picked up your order. Be sure to do this so the farm knows that you were there!
For TC Farm, we have egg cartons that we ask members to bring back. (It cuts down on waste and also helps keep costs down for members.) Usually veggie CSAs have you return their boxes for reuse.
TC Farm offers our members food year round. But many veggie CSAs, especially here in Minnesota with a set growing season, have a start date and end date. (Fresh fruits and vegetables don't grow as well with a foot of snow on the ground.)
In the case of meats from TC Farm: yes! Our deliveries are dropped off in large, insulated coolers that keep our subscribers food safe and fresh, even in the warmest months. They stay frozen well past the recommended pickup window if someone is running late that day. Usually veggie CSAs are not refrigerated, so it is really important to pickup your veggies as soon as possible during the summer.
We probably haven't thought of everything. If you're a member of TC Farm -- or have been a part of a different CSA -- what are some tips about picking up your food that you have? What is something that would have been nice to know ahead of time? Let everyone know in the comments below!