During the pandemic, many of us have been thinking about how important it is to support our favourite local businesses. You may not know that you can directly support local farmers by becoming part of Community Supported Agriculture also known as a CSA.
The easiest way to explain a CSA is by comparing it to a subscription box model where you pay a monthly fee and get a product in return. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) takes this model a step further. You become a shareholder in the farm, assuming some of the risk and reaping the rewards in the form of organic, fresh, and local produce.
Many CSA’s have seen a dramatic increase in subscribers over the course of the pandemic as consumers are thinking more about supply chains as well as how they can support local businesses and producers.
CSA’s create benefits for everyone involved. As a form of civic agriculture, the trend to buy local and direct from suppliers within your community, a CSA strengthens the relationship between consumers and farmers. By subscribing or buying shares in a harvest, you have a direct line to in-season fruits and vegetables, farm-fresh goods such as eggs, meat. and even honey.
While the model may vary from farm to farm or ranch to ranch, your investment is usually made well before harvest and you are purchasing for the season. However the CSA is operated, you can be sure you’ll be pleased with the knowledge that whoever hands you your box had their hands in the planting, pulling and production of the goods inside.
For the farm, it’s a direct line to the needs and desires of the community. Operating as a CSA, a farm can engage with their supporters, ask questions about quality, share recipes and build an important relationship between farmers and consumers. The cooperative nature of community supported agriculture can infuse the farm with some much-needed financial resources that can help them sustain and grow their operation.
Some community supported agriculture programs will offer delivery right to your door, while others will set up pick-up points at various places within the city.
Here are some of our favourites.
Run as a farmer owned cooperative, YYC Growers brings fantastic locally grown fruits and vegetables to their harvest boxes while their farmers are dedicated to improving the health of their soil. Drawing from 15 farm owners who grow in and around Calgary, YYC Growers not only focus on creating healthy and nutrient-rich food, but all their farmers are dedicated to enriching and improving their soil through regenerative agriculture.
They have payment plans for 4, 12 or 24 boxes and offer pick up points all over Calgary, as well as Airdrie, Cochrane, and Langdon. For a small fee, home delivery is available within Calgary. You can choose from weekly or bi-weekly shares for eggs, fruit, coffee and beef. And, full disclosure, we are tickled pink as a fresh radish that they are featuring our 7K Beef Dinner pies on their site this month.
Blue Mountain Biodynamic Farms
Located just outside Carstairs, Blue Mountain Biodynamic Farms has been operating their CSA for over 22 years. Their CSA is seasonal and runs for 16 weeks beginning in July. With a limited run, these shares sell out quickly, but they do take names for a wait list. Among some of their offerings are eggs, chicken and pork from the farm, locally baked bread made from Alberta wheat and locally-sourced honey.
Blue Mountain was very generous last summer and provided some wonderful fresh produce that we were able to include in our lunch program as groceries for families to take home.
Mob Honey ‘s CSA operation is a box delivered 4 times per year. It is pretty sweet to be able to buy honey directly from the person who collects it. Amber Yano has hives in and around Calgary and if you follow Mob Honey on Instagram, you can follow along as she visits hives to feed and care for the bees. The honey is raw, unpasteurized, comes in some very unique blends and is 100% Albertan. You can expect a mixed bag of blends, infusions and fragrant honey. And you may be seeing some of this deliciousness in future Devour hors d’oeuvres.
Devour and 7K Ranch started collaborating in the Fall of 2020 when the Devour team assisted with making 7K’s namesake BBQ Sauce. The ranch, located just west of Okotoks offers Angus Beef packs – 10 lbs of a variety of meat from burgers and hot dogs to ground beef and New York steak. In the spirit of community, 7K donates 10% of the proceeds from each pack purchase to The Alex Community Food Centre. Supply is limited and Devour is the pick-up point.
While TK Ranch does not operate under the CSA model, they provide an extensive offering of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey for delivery or curb-side pick up. Located in the remote grasslands pf Eastern Alberta, the ranch has been a leader in the pasture to plate model since the late 1990s. The Biggs family is hands-on, all-in on keeping their animals happy and healthy, grass-fed and free-range.
To CSA or not CSA?
While the CSA model doesn’t work for every household, we do encourage you to try it out. Being a subscriber ensures you have farm fresh produce on hand and on a regular basis. Receiving the regular boxes can also pop you out of a cooking rut by forcing you to search out recipes to use ingredients you may not buy on your own.
We often travel to other countries and admire their sense of ‘terroir’ and how proud many countries are to enjoy foods grown in their local soil. You can become your own Calgary and area ‘terroir’ expert by trying out a CSA. We have all heard ‘you are what you eat’ but, you are also, ‘where you eat as well’.