What is Community Supported Agriculture, and Why Do We Do It?

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Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are essentially partnerships between individuals and local farms. Members receive a weekly share of seasonal produce, often with optional additions of meat or dairy products. Every week is different and each share is curated based on what is currently growing and available locally.

community supported agriculture - the variety in a CSA box is surprising and exciting!
A snapshot of our most recent CSA share.

My husband and I have been members of this Birmingham CSA program since our first child was born. Were we nervous about the upfront cost? Absolutely. Did we wonder how on earth we were going to make use of fresh veggies with no time to cook and a baby with no teeth? Definitely. However, the benefits of this weekly share to our family have been both numerous and surprising.

The first CSA share my husband and I ever picked up!

When Ava was an infant, we found we could let her play with fresh food while we named the different fruits and vegetables that we were cooking. When she began eating solids, we always had something to steam for her to enjoy (read: mash violently into her face and high chair). Because of our CSA produce, we ate much better as a family and our grocery budget was cut in half!

Now, with two toddlers, CSA pickup day is exciting for the whole family. It goes something like this:

We all travel downtown in the middle of the week with our basket. My two year old brings them the basket and while they fill it, we name all the fruits and vegetables we are getting that week. I won’t lie, sometimes we receive produce I don’t recognize and I learn something new too! Watching Ava get so excited about fresh food is wonderful. This is also the time when my husband takes our son to a chic, downtown coffeehouse to get me a fancy cappuccino. Yes, that is part of what makes CSA pickup day so exciting for this mom (no shame).

community supported agriculture - CSAs in Birmingham can provide learning opportunities for your kids
Ava counting eggs.

We bring the basket home and carefully put everything away, reviewing food names and colors, while sometimes also practicing our counting.

Outside of seasonal produce, our share includes milk and eggs. Additionally, we often receive local bread and cheese. This amounts to most of what we eat, so pickup day is also the day I do meal planning for the week. It’s like my very own episode of Chopped, but instead of world-renowned chefs delivering harsh criticisms, I get complaints delivered succinctly and honestly, toddler-style. Oh yeah . . . there’s also no giant check for cooking good meals . . . but I digress.

One unexpected benefit is that we have gotten to know local farmers and bakeries better. Birmingham is so fantastic in that we are unequivocally urban with all the amenities and benefits that entails, but we are surrounded on all sides by talented and hard-working farmers. Each week I can go online and look at which farms have grown the various goodies in our CSA share. I know who grows my favorite lettuce, who has the best mushrooms, and where I need to look if I want the odd, out-of-season veggie. All of these farmers are also around The Market at Pepper Place’s Saturday market, and we often spend our weekend mornings there. I can easily get more of whatever I need, and the kids can experience the community of people who are growing their food.

Community Supported Agriculture - CSA in Birmingham - farmers attend the Market at Pepper Place
Pepper Place from above

Through CSA membership, our family enjoys new, fresh vegetables every week — all thanks to these wonderful people and their hard work. How does your family work to “eat local” and stay connected? We would love to hear about your experiences with local farms and seasonal food! 

Considering CSA for your family? We are very lucky to live in a place that has a multitude of farms offering shares in various sizes and programs that are accommodating for many budgets. Some run the full year, while others are seasonal, and some deliver straight to your door! Birmingham even has a CSA program specializing in local, humanely-raised meat products, if that’s your thing. You can learn more about all of our city’s fabulous CSA shares (and the wonderful farmers who create them) here.

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Katie is a native of Birmingham who moved out to the Bay Area for grad school and the start of her teaching career. After three years of 24/7 traffic and studio apartment living, she moved back to Birmingham and now lives in Homewood with her husband of three years, William. While enjoying Birmingham’s ample parking and fabulous people, Katie and William welcomed their children, Ava (2 1/2 years old) and Otto (1 1/2 years old). After teaching for four years, Katie became a SAHM to Ava and Otto. She and William are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of Baby #3 in October 2019. When Katie is not contemplating the engineering feat of fitting three car seats into her vehicle or the logistics of being outnumbered by three toddlers, she enjoys gardening and cooking with her kids. She uses her educational background to teach her toddler about cooking and baking, chronicling their creations on her blog (eatjoyfully.com). Now that the dreaded “all day” sickness has (mostly) subsided, you can find her cooking up new dishes and eyeing fresh produce at Pepper Place, breakfast burrito in hand.