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You can get monthly subscriptions for a basket of fruit, a bouquet
of flowers, even a box of chocolate delivered each month to your
door. Now farmers are getting into the act. It's called
community-supported agriculture, CSA or "subscription farming."
Customers buy a
subscription from a local farmer, much like a subscription to a
magazine; but instead of a magazine, they receive a predetermined
amount of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit, vegetables, and eggs
or meats delivered to their door or sometimes to a common location
nearby for pickup. Some CSAs provide recipes and cooking tips along
with the week's shipment so their customers will know how to prepare
some of the more unusual vegetables they may receive.
Angelic Organics is a
CSA that grows vegetables and herbs for more than 1,000 households
in the Chicago and Rockford area. Members, called shareholders,
receive a weekly three-fourths bushel box full of a diversity of
seasonal produce. The farm is 94 acres, with approximately 25 acres
in vegetable production each year. At
http://www.angelicorganics.com/, potential customers can get an
idea of what produce they might receive each week and sign up to be
"CSAs create a
partnership between local farmers and nearby consumers, who become
members or subscribers in support of the farm," said Tom Spaulding,
director of the nonprofit CSA Learning Center at Angelic Organics.
"In exchange for paying in advance -- at the beginning of the
growing season, when the farm needs cash -- CSA members receive the
healthiest produce throughout the season and keep money, jobs and
farms in their own community."
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Pam Callahan has been
a subscriber to Angelic Organics since the mid '90s. She lives in
Chicago and picks up her box at a drop-off site in Wicker Park,
about six blocks away from her home. "I saw an ad, decided to try it
and got hooked," she said. "There's no comparison to the vegetables.
They're so good. At first it was a challenge to know how to cook
them, but they have a newsletter and a website that gives
suggestions for simple recipes."
Callahan said she
wanted a source for organic vegetables because as she got older she
was developing food sensitivities. Eating organic foods has seemed
to lessen those symptoms.
CSAs close the
distance between the farmer and the consumer because the consumer
buys directly from the farm, like a roadside stand that comes to
"People who subscribe
to a CSA say that they like knowing where their food came from and
how it was grown or raised," said Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant,
co-coordinator of the Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program at
the University of Illinois. "Understanding the challenges facing
family farmers in your community will make you a true partner in the
local food system."
For more information on CSAs, visit
[University of Illinois news