CSA farms offer fresh fruits, vegetables

Looking for a way to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables?

Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs may be an option.

Minnesota boasts a bounty of CSA farms and now is the time to sign up for a 2012 membership, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

By paying an up-front membership fee to the farmer, consumers get a “share” of the farm’s yield throughout the growing season. A share is typically a weekly box or basket of fresh produce but may also include meats, fresh flowers and other products.

Listings for 85 Minnesota CSA farms can be found by searching the Minnesota Grown Directory at www.minnesotagrown.com. Among the CSA farms in the Elk River area are Culinary Delights Farm in Big Lake and Lacey J Ranch in Zimmerman, according to the Minnesota Grown Directory.

The number of CSA farms featured in the directory has more than doubled in the past two years, according to Minnesota Grown spokesman Paul Hugunin.

“We bounced from 42 CSA listings in 2009 up to 85 last year and it’s just great to see such phenomenal growth in the number of these farms,” Hugunin said. “A few years ago hardly anyone knew what a CSA was – and now they’ve become an important choice for many consumers who want to get their food fresh from the farm.”

Most CSAs deliver shares to a drop-site location; others allow members to pick up their shares at the farm, sometimes for a discount.

CSA farms also promote on-farm participation and they often host seasonal events to encourage customers to visit the farm.  Weekly CSA newsletters may include updates on growing conditions and recipes that showcase the foods in season.