The name sounds as if it originated in a mid-level government bureaucracy. But the concept behind Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is far more exciting and mutually beneficial.
In this direct partnership between consumer and producer, customers purchase shares in a farmer’s growing season, and the investment is returned via regularly scheduled deliveries of whatever is being harvested.
More than 80 Minnesota farms have CSA programs, with some putting a twist on tradition by offering items beyond kohlrabi, cabbage and carrots. For instance, Prairie Hollow Farm in Elgin features farmer Pam Benike’s cheeses (using milk from the farm’s grass-fed cows) and breads (created with flour milled from the farm’s wheat). Earth Dance Farm in Spring Valley spotlights farm-fresh eggs. Northerly Flora in Minneapolis specializes in fresh-cut floral arrangements.
Twin Cities retailers have also adopted the CSA model. Tangletown Gardens sells shares supporting its own farm in Plato, but also highlights locally cultivated mushrooms and Minnesota-roasted coffee beans. Cooks of Crocus Hill has been offering crop shares for nearly 20 years, hawking limited quantities of blue crab, cherries, morel mushrooms and even a kitchen bar soap fashioned from heritage pork fat, lemon and oatmeal, a specialty of Beatty Stone Farms in Hugo.
“We find really cool things, but the quantities being produced aren’t enough to set up an ongoing inventoried item,” says Cooks co-owner Karl Benson. “We would sell them all the time, if we could.”