Saturday, May 5, was an event-filled day for Farmshed, Stevens Point’s local food advocacy group. Starting at 9:00 a.m. volunteers participated in "Climate Impacts Day" as part of 350.org’s "Connect the Dots" action. Then, at 11:00 a.m. the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) open house began, where interested parties could meet with local CSA farmers and sign up for this year’s shares.
The workday, organized by Dan Dietrich, focused on combating climate change as part of a global initiative organized by 350.org, an organization dedicated to bringing CO2 levels below 350 parts per million (Levels are at 394.45 parts per million at Mauna Loa, Hawaii as of March 2012). Volunteers disassembled glass panes, which were the roof of two of the greenhouses at The Greenhouse Project. These two wood-framed greenhouses will be removed to make room for a courtyard. Shortly after removal, excavation will begin and a solar hot water system will be installed.
The second part of the day, the CSA open house, was an event intended to introduce the farmer to the consumer. Community supported agriculture is where the consumer pays the farmer at the beginning of the season for a weekly, or bi-weekly, share. The share could include a smorgasbord of vegetables, eggs, maple syrup, honey and even mushrooms.
"Buying a share helps (the farmer) get the money when they need it, which is in the spring ... Then you get to produce all summer long," said Marty Cable, 1995 UWSP graduate in biology.
But, there are many other reasons to get a CSA share. "Expanding my menu would probably be the biggest benefit of a CSA," said Jim Wroblewski, 2000 UWSP graduate in biology.
Wroblewski has a large garden of his own but sees the benefit of a CSA in trying new types and varieties of vegetables.
"I like the idea of a CSA as a community builder, because they have their own little events, like barn bashes with families and vegetables – it just seems like fun ... families and food," said Meghan Hogfeldt, sophomore at UWSP.
"One of the most important things for us is the connection and it is nice for (the producer) to face-to-face meet (the consumer) and say, ‘I’m going to be producing all of these things this year and how would you like to be a part of that, and be able to receive that every other week or every week?’ " said Layne Cozzolino, executive director of Farmshed.
There are many types and kinds of CSA memberships, including winter shares, summer shares and worker shares. Winter shares are just that, shares beginning at the end of summer and continuing to spring. These are usually meat shares. Summer shares are the traditional CSA share, which normally includes a vast assortment of vegetables all growing season. A worker share is similar to a summer share but usually requires a day of service per week in exchange for a discounted price on a share.
"You have your regulars at the market and stuff, but when you have a CSA you get to know (the customer) a lot better. We do a newsletter, talk about our lives, what is new, what is going on at the farm so they get a look at what we are doing ... It is more of a longer term relationship ... more of a consistent relationship anyways," said Chris Holman, CSA farmer. "People come out to the farm and take a tour and stuff, to see what we’re doing and all that."
A CSA share can be an amazing thing for the right person. Most shares come with newsletters, recipes and workshops on cool new ways to use the produce included in the share.