Seasonal eating is one of the joys of living in the Southern Appalachians. Community Supported Agriculture, also known as a CSA, lets you celebrate the arrival of each fruit and vegetable. There are CSAs for produce, meat, and even flowers. For produce CSAs, members sign up at the beginning of the season and receive a box or bag full of fresh veggies each week.
Every spring, ASAP hosts a CSA fair where farmers talk to the community about what they’ll offer during the growing season. The room buzzes with conversation at this year’s CSA Fair. Farmer Sara Jane Davis is here from A Way of Life Farm in Sunshine, North Carolina to spread the word about the produce CSA that she runs with her partner, Jamie.
“We’re talking to a lot of people who are coming through, some who have never been in a CSA before,” she says. “It seems like most of the people have never been in a CSA before and are just learning about it for the first time. So we’re having some wonderful conversations with families and people of all generations.”
A Way of Life Farm in Rutherford County offers Spring, Summer, and Fall CSA shares, and customers can pick which season they’d like to sign up for. “You’ll get a bag of vegetables each week of the season, and along with that you get information about what’s in your bag, how to use it, how to store it, and also news from the farm,” Davis explains.
The spring season brings lettuce, strawberries, carrots, salad mix, and more. By summer, the bag is full of tomatoes, eggplant, squash, and beans. Cool weather crops make a return for fall, plus sweet potatoes and garlic. Davis notes that healthy eating through the seasons is part of what makes CSAs popular with customers, and she also sees economic and environmental impacts.
“By supporting a local farmer, then we are supporting our local businesses and it’s this wonderful cycle that keeps money closer to home,” she says. “It’s great for the environment because by supporting farms like ours and so many other small farms in the area, I know for ourselves, the care for the land is of primary importance. It’s kind of what’s driven us to farming, in a lot of ways. We say it’s for healthy people, healthy economy, and healthy ecology and it’s really true.”
Fast forward three months. It’s early June and the spring CSA season is in full swing. Davis is in a parking lot in the River Arts District of Asheville, and CSA members are here to pick up their bags. Jessie Dean from West Asheville is a longtime member. Her insulated bag crinkles as she looks inside. Dean says it’s exciting to see the seasons change through her food.
“I always love it when the tomatoes start coming in,” Dean says. “Strawberries we loved, obviously that just is tapering now, but that was a big one. And every now and then there’s a melon which we get excited about, too.”
Dean says that having a relationship with the farmer who grows her food is a big reason she joined the CSA in 2011.
“Sara Jane and I are friends and have known each other for a long time, and when they moved out to Rutherfordton to start their farm we wanted to support the farm and support them. It’s also great to get local fruit and veggies that we feel really good about and that we know are going to be healthy for our family, and we know who grew it, so that feels really good.”
There’s still time to join a CSA. Although summer signups are mostly closed, several farms offer fall shares, including A Way of Life Farm. Find out about fall CSAs from many local farms in ASAP’s Local Food Guide.