CSA farms see rise in popularity

Click here to read about a CSA farm in Big Lake Township.

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms are becoming a hot commodity in Minnesota.

“It’s really taken off in the last five, six, seven years,” said Minnesota Grown spokesman Paul Hugunin of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “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.”

Paul Hugunin

CSA farms are relatively new to Minnesota, however.

The first year there were any CSA farms listed in the state’s Minnesota Grown Directory was in 1996, Hugunin said. That grew to more than 20 by 2008 and this year, there are 87 CSA farms in the directory.

CSA farms work like this: 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.

Hugunin believes part of what people like about CSA farms is the connection to a specific farmer.

Other things that people like are the convenience of getting fresh produce weekly and the potential health benefits, he said. Participating in a CSA farm almost ensures that people will get fruits and vegetables that they haven’t tried before.

“I think the end result is people end up eating a greater variety of produce than they otherwise would if they were left to their own decisions,” he said.

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

Most CSA farms provide a weekly newsletter, which may include updates on growing conditions and recipes that showcase the foods in season, he said. Some CSA farms also promote on-farm participation and host seasonal events to encourage customers to visit the farm.

Consumers can find a CSA farm in the Minnesota Grown Directory at www.minnesotagrown.com. Paper copies of the new 2012 Minnesota Grown Directory will be available by May 1. The directories may be ordered in advance by going to www.minnesotagrown.com.

CSA farms in the greater Elk River area include:

•Culinary Delights Farm, Big Lake

•Lacey J Ranch, Zimmerman

•Trumpeter Swan Farm, Buffalo

•Outstanding in Our Field CSA, Isanti

•Blue Ribbon Farm, Clearwater

•Neumann Farms Inc., Princeton

•Country Taste Farm, Cambridge

•Chatham Preservation Farm, Buffalo