Food makers across the country have taken the idea of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and run with it.
There are thousands of traditional fruit and vegetable CSA programs in the United States (go to LocalHarvest to find one in your neighborhood). Generally, consumers sign-up in the winter months for a "share" of a local farmer's harvest come spring and summer. This ensures that farmers get cash for repairs, seeds, supplies, and tools when they need it most: in the barren, vegetable-less winter months when they have no regular income. Doing sign-ups in the cold months also allows farmers to make a better guess of the demand for their product and how much they should plant.
Below are some groups that have moved beyond the traditional fruit and vegetable model; they offer everything from applewood smoked bacon to kimchi, with a focus on local products and community. Some of these groups sell and ship their products all over the country. This takes a step away from the core idea of a CSA: that you are supporting your local community. But still, take heart in that you are directly affecting someone's local community.
The list, after the jump.
CSB: Community Supported Bacon
For $110 you can get a pack of bacon from Black Pig Meat Co. shipped to you every month of the year. The chefs and charcutiers from Bovolo Restaurant in Healdsburg, California and Zazu Restaurant and Farm in Santa Rosa take heritage breed pigs, raised without antibiotics and hormones, and turn them into tasty dry cured, brown-sugared bacon.
CSF: Community Supported Fishery
In Maine and in Massachusetts you can sign up to take part in a Community Supported Fishery program. By signing up for a 12-week CSF, you'll be getting the freshest fish available at the best possible prices.
In Maine, for between $15-34 a week you'll be entitled to up to 12 pounds of wild-caught fish from Port Clyde Fresh Catch. You can choose whole fish, or, for an extra charge, have the fishermen do the filleting for you.
In Massachusetts, the comparably priced shares from Cape Ann Fresh Catch provide fish to the Boston area.
By selling directly to the consumer, fishermen and fisherwomen can sell their fish at retail prices instead of in bulk to a supermarket. Not only does this give the fishermen a living wage, it gives the fish a break too. By paying the fishermen a fairer price, they don't have to fish as much, an important point given many concerns about overfishing.
CSP&B: Community Supported Preserves and Bakery
In Madison, Wisconsin you can sign up for a CSP&B, giving you a weekly allotment of baked goods, fermented foods, and sweet preserves.
Three businesses, Honey Bee Bakery, Kindly Kraut, and Pamplemousse Preserves have teamed up to put this program together. In one weekly share you can expect to receive small-batch, artisanal products like a loaf of wheat berry bread, a butter cake with seasonal fruit, pastries, dill sauerkraut, radish kimchi, tomato jam, and a jar of raspberry lemon verbena jam. That's almost half my grocery shopping for the week, done in one fell swoop!
CSP: Community Supported Pie
For $65 you get four straight weeks of pie from the Durham, North Carolina, baker Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery. Lawless does her part to support local community by sourcing locally milled flour, eggs from local chickens, and locally grown berries and vegetables.
Lawless runs her Community Supported Pie program year-round, but it is especially important to her in the winter, when the attendance at the farmers' markets where she sells drops.
When you sign up, you can specify whether you want sweet or savory pies. I'm a sucker for sweet berry pies of all kinds, but after hearing about Lawless's savory chicken potpie, braised celery with anchovy breadcrumbs pie, and Lacinato kale with house-made guanciale pie, I might have to change my ways.
CSC: Community Supported Canning
The Yes, We Can project takes an approach that means you can't just order and pick up your food. You've got to work for it. Yes, We Can is a community canning project from Live Culture Co. based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Participants learn about canning, participate in the process, and then get to go home with the freshly preserved goods. The apricot jam project has come and gone, but it's not too late to sign up to take part in the cucumber pickle project or the tomato project.
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