Chefs everywhere have embraced the farm-to-table ideal - from food trucks to fine dining–but thanks to the increasing popularity of Community-Supported Agriculture, smart foodies are quickly discovering that you don’t have to have a culinary degree – or a green thumb – to enjoy regular access to farm-fresh goodies.
CSA stands for community-supported (or community-shared agriculture). A CSA cuts out the middlemen, like supermarkets and huge agricultural conglomerates, ensuring that consumers get fresher products and farmers retain a higher percentage of the profits. It’s truly a win-win situation for all involved. The details depend on which CSA you choose, but generally, you’ll pay a weekly, monthly, or seasonal contribution to support (and receive!) the very best fresh and seasonally specific products your community of farmers has to offer.
Some farms, like Day Spring Farm in Middleburg, may also offer meat or combination vegetable/meat shares, typically from livestock raised on the farm itself. These are a great option for omnivores that want to eat local!
Depending on the farm or program you choose, your box may be delivered to your home or office, or you may have to travel to a local meeting place or farmer's market to pick up your share. Thankfully, modern tech has made this a breeze for CSA members. Broadfork Farm in Chesterfield even allows members to put their subscriptions on hold or change pickup sites online. Some providers may also split their offerings into seasons or runs that correspond with available produce; Sinclair Farm in Mount Jackson offers 4 distinct CSA seasons to consider, each packed with fresh, seasonal fare.
For those who aren’t familiar with the bounty of each season, the Virginia Department of Agriculture has an awesome fruit and vegetable chart that shows what crops are ready when.
CSAs are an excellent way to keep fresh produce in your diet, as well as igniting culinary inspiration with new variety. In addition to the health and nutritional benefits of regular produce delivery, each membership in a CSA or Farm Box program supports local agriculture, allowing farmers in your area to grow, support their families, and produce new crops in future growing seasons. These farmers then invest more money into the local economy for supplies, giving a financial boost to the entire community.
In addition to the farms we’ve mentioned so far, here are some other great choices for finding your perfect CSA:
The Byrd Farm has been a family-run institution in Goochland County since the 1800's. The Stoneman family has very high standards, focusing on organic and sustainable practices to produce fruit and veggies aplenty, plus flowers, pasture-raised chickens (fed a natural, non-GMO diet, of course), and eggs, too! Insider tip: try the peach and berry preserves!
Fall Line Farms has somehow infused the wholesome feel of an old-school farm stand with the convenience of internet shopping. Sign on to their online farmer’s market anytime between Friday at noon and Monday at midnight and place your order, then pick up the following Thursday at one of the Richmond-area locations.
Willowsford Farm sells vegetables and eggs for a full 27 weeks between May and November, and they’re now partnering up with other local producers to offer goat cheese, flowers, and milk.
Spring is the perfect time of year to sign up for your local CSA. If you’re ready to enjoy a fresh feast of local produce in your home, and you want to find all the best farmers markets and growers Virginia has to offer, check out our grow list below.