-Revée Needham ’18
This fall marks the second season in which I have been a member of Common Thread’s CSA. This guide will explain what CSA is and the numerous benefits of buying a CSA share, along with the specifics of being a member at Common Thread.
What is CSA?
CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. CSA members buy a “share” of produce, often a full growing season’s worth, typically paying the cost upfront. This benefits farmers by ensuring a steady customer base. CSA members are then committed for the season length, regardless of weather conditions that may impact the crops. In return, members receive fresh and local produce. Most CSAs are vegetable and fruit based, but others may also include dairy products and meat. A CSA enables a much closer relationship between a farmer and the consumer. Across the US, there are estimated to be over 4,000 CSAs.
Why should I choose CSA?
Buying locally provides numerous benefits. Environmentally, the “food miles” for CSA produce, or the distance the food travelled to reach your plate, is very small. Across America, the average distance a food item travels before your home is between 4,000 and 5,000 miles. In contrast, my weekly food miles for picking up my CSA share is less than 11 miles. CSAs cut down on carbon emissions produced in the transportation process. In the Hamilton area, surrounded by so many small farms, it makes sense to support local farmers. According to researchers, around 11% of food-related carbon emissions is due to the transportation. Additionally, the food is all in-season, where the crops are harvested in line with local conditions. Another benefit is simply knowing who produces your food; in the large chain-dominated grocery store culture, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to track where your food comes from. Being a CSA member allows one to support local farmers and to develop a relationship with them. CSAs are a sustainable food option where carbon emissions are lower and many commit to treating the land, the workers, and the consumers fairly.
What has my experience with Common Thread been like?
Common Thread Farm is located about five miles away from Colgate University near Lake Moraine. This farm is run by Wendy and Asher and is committed to producing food grown according to organic practices. They offer a variety of share lengths and sizes. For my own cooking, I purchase a mini share where I receive four items per week. Even cooking a vegetarian diet, I find this size to be plentiful! To reduce costs, you and a friend can split a larger share. Common Thread allows members to pick up their items at the farm or to pick them up at delivery spots for towns further away. I’ve personally enjoyed the variety of produce I’ve encountered. Each week there are different items to choose from and many are local heritage crops that may not be otherwise found in a chain grocery store. They still have fall shares available for any interested students, staff, or community members. Check out their website to learn more and sign up today! If you’re not in the Hamilton area, you can check out https://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to find a CSA near you.