Summer is the season of fresh fruits and vegetables ripe and ready for us all to enjoy. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky enough to have a large amount of available produce at our fingertips throughout the growing season. The Portland Area Community Supported Agriculture program, CSA for short, is a mutually beneficial program that helps bring weekly supplies of fresh produce to consumers for a seasonal fee. CSAs have been around nationwide since the 1980s and help everyone involved. CSAs were developed as a way to support smaller farms and encourage the rise in family-operated farms. In Oregon, about 84 percent of farms are family or individually owned. For farmers, they ensure a steady and stable source of income, and for families, they ensure healthy and affordable food.
Here in Oregon, CSA programs work with the food stamps program SNAP. On the Portland CSA site, a searchable list shows CSA farms who work with the Oregon SNAP program. One of the CSA farm groups, Adelante Mujeres, offers “double-up foodbucks” for their SNAP patrons. This is an Oregon program meant to make farm fresh vegetables available to low-income families. The families are able to pay half-price for their shares because of the “Farmer’s Market Fund,” which is a Portland-based nonprofit organization. According to DHS, 385,097 Oregonians rely on some amount of SNAP benefits every month. Having access to healthy, local, and fresh produce can make a difference for a family or individual in need.
Many of the CSAs offer different options for size and, in some cases, types of food available. Adelante Mujeres offers standard and large size boxes as well as a “salsa box,” which includes various peppers and recipes for salsas using the ingredients in the box. Other farms offer mushrooms, eggs and sometimes meats, such as rabbit or duck. Hood River Organic works to provide boxes year-round, growing winter and summer vegetables. The Portland CSA website also provides CSAs based on location or by keyword search, making it easy to find a CSA to fit individual tastes.
These programs can also be a cost-effective solution for everyday individuals as well. Some CSA farms offer payment plans, and prices can vary and be specific to size of boxes. The 47th Avenue Farm in Portland offers a work-share program, offering a $30 price reduction in exchange for 12 hours of work on the farm. Their half-share program with 24 pick-ups costs $555, with a full share (for large families) priced at $999. Other more cost effective programs, like Abundant Fields Farm, offer half shares at $385 and full shares for $595. They also offer deposit and payment plans throughout the season. On the high end, a family could pay $42 a pick up for a large share of farm-fresh produce—a reasonable price for a family to pay each week for fresh vegetables.
Here in the Portland area, we are lucky to have access to an abundance of farms and produce throughout the growing season. CSAs are another useful and easy way for us to take advantage of this abundance. They help the farming community, as well as the other communities, giving us a reasonably priced supply of fresh produce. When we can, we should take advantage and eat local.