Community Supported Agriculture programs deliver fresh, in-season food grown at a farm near you!
What does it take to get your kids to love eating their veggies? How about you make it a little . . . well, personal? One of the best ways to encourage adventurous eating in youth is to make new foods feel exciting. Thanks to the popularity of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, your kids can learn about different vegetables, how they’re cultivated, and actually meet the farmers who grow them.
These programs allow consumers to subscribe to weekly bundles of goods from local farms. Joining provides a great way to expand your horizons and get fresh, super healthy produce that’s grown right in your area. Plus, you’re supporting your local farmers!
CSA programs have steadily grown in popularity over the past few decades, and it’s easy to see why. For proof, look no further than the families who participate in CSA programs season after season. “They trust what they’re going to get,” says Susan Frackelton Noyce, coordinator of Agriberry Farm’s Annapolis Summer Fruit CSA. “It’s going to be something special because it’s something fresh and local and made by a family with lots of love.”
How Farm Shares Work
Think of it as buying a share in the farm—this is why CSAs are sometimes called a farm share. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this helps farms stay financially secure and can even ensure better crop prices overall. Every farm runs its CSA program a little differently, but in general, consumers pay for a subscription or membership to the farm’s bounty.
In return, subscribers get a regular selection of the farm’s crops, packaged in a box for weekly pickup. While some CSA programs offer delivery straight to homes or neighborhood drop-off points, some families find it fun to get their CSA boxes in person at the farm. This way kids have a chance to see where their food is grown and meet the farmers who grow it.
Some farmers will even include extras in their weekly boxes—fresh eggs, dairy, cheese, baked goods, meat, or flowers. If the farm specializes in agriculture beyond fruits and vegetables, these might be items they make or grow themselves; in other cases, they might come from a partnering farm.
While families participating in a farm share should be ready for an element of surprise (you never know what you’re going to get each week), you can look into finding programs that offer greater choices on your end. Farmers are sometimes willing to swap out items you really don’t like or give you larger quantities of items you love as long as there is enough available.
What to Expect
First, be prepared for how wonderful ultra-fresh produce tastes. You’ll soon notice other benefits as well. Your weekly box might come with foods you don’t normally buy or maybe haven’t even tried before. This means not only better nutrition but also more adventurous cooking and dining experiences.
Another added bonus is that your kids will likely be more interested in trying new foods because they’re part of the process from the very beginning. When you pick up your box from the farm, have a family conversation about what you got this week. Look up what vitamins and minerals are in each fruit or vegetable, and how those nutrients benefit your body. For example, if you get a pint of strawberries, you can talk about how they’re a great source of vitamin C, which boosts your immune system. Then you can look up recipes, either online or in your favorite cookbook, that involve what’s in your box.
Finally, joining a CSA program provides one last important learning experience: eating seasonally. All fruits and vegetables have times of year when they are at their peak. You can expect to see scarcity during some months and abundance during others depending on the weather. Take advantage and make a family project of canning and preserving extra food so you can enjoy it year-round. You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it is to make jams with extra fruit or pickles with extra vegetables.
Ready to find a CSA program?
It’s always good to check reviews and research the farm’s reputation. As Noyce explains, most CSAs come with an element of risk because the subscription price isn’t refundable if the farm has a bad harvest.
“Do your homework and find out more about the farmer and the farm before you decide to invest,” she says. “That way you’ll trust the outcome and know you’re in good hands.”
Local Harvest, a nonprofit network dedicated to connecting people with local farms, has a full list of CSA programs at localharvest.org/annapolis-md/csa. You can also find more information through Maryland’s Department of Agriculture at marylandsbest.maryland.gov.
- Seasonal fruit, including peaches, berries, melons, and apples
- 12-week and 24-week options June–November
- Pickup Saturdays and Sundays at the Anne Arundel Farmers Market, 275 Harry Truman Parkway, Annapolis
- Fruits, vegetables, eggs, chicken, meat, and cheese
- Summer–fall option (June–November) and winter–spring option (December–May)
- Pickup Thursdays at Vin 909 Restaurant, 909 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis
- Primarily fruit with some seasonal vegetables
- 20-week summer season beginning in late April or early May
- Wednesday pickup at Eastport Shopping Center (1023 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis), Bean Rush Café (112 Annapolis Street, Annapolis), or 300 Riggs Avenue in Severna Park
- Salad vegetables
- 10-week season April–June
- Pickup at Riva Greens Farm in Annapolis
- Flowers, produce, and eggs
- Flexible pickup at a designated pickup area at the farm (1047 St. Stephen’s Church Road, Crownsville) or during one of the farm’s Field Markets on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.