A sure sign that spring is (finally) on the way is when several Twin Cities natural foods co-ops announce their upcoming CSA fairs.

CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture," and it's a starchy name for an increasingly popular way for consumers to access locally raised, farm-fresh food. Here's how Community Supported Agriculture works: Prior to the growing season, consumers invest in shares in a farm's seasonal output. Over the course of the summer and fall, the farm delivers weekly or bi-weekly boxes of whatever vegetable or fruit is coming off the fields. Some CSAs also include dairy products, meat and/or poultry. 

A helpful way for first-timers to learn more is to drop in on a free CSA fair, where stores draw farmers and consumers together to share information and purchase shares. Here's a rundown:

March 13 and 14 (1 to 4 p.m.) : River Market Community Co-op, Stillwater

April 10 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.): Eastside Food Co-op, Minneapolis

April 24 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.): Seward Co-op, Minneapolis.

In addition, on March 23 (6:30 to 8 p.m.), Linden Hills Co-op will be offering a 90-minute class, "Make the Most of your CSA Share," conducted by CSA veteran Kathryn Tempas. Cost is $12 ($10 for members), register at 612-922-1159.

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