Visiting a nearby Farmers Market and buying a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share are both great ways to purchase local food.
Here are the basics of a CSA: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.
Advantages for Farmers
• Spend time marketing the food early in the year before 16 hour days in the field begin,
• Receive payment early in the season, helping the farm's cash flow,
• Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow.
Advantages for Consumers
• Eat fresh food, with all the associated flavor and nutritional benefits,
• Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking,
• Often visit the farm on selected occasions,
• Kids may favor food from "their" farm, even veggies they've never been known to eat,
• Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn how food is grown.
There is an important concept of shared risk woven into the CSA model that takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction. In most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundant box of produce each week. If production is good, members may get more than expected, whereas, if production is slim, members receive less. In any event, members typically do not have additional payments for surplus nor are they reimbursed for losses. The result is a feeling of "we're in this together". The idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers.