Feb. 28 is National CSA day, the annual celebration of Community Supported Agriculture. CSA is a popular business model for small, diversified vegetable farms, not only because it benefits the farm’s cash-flow in the tightest months of the year but because it is one of the most community-oriented farm marketing models.
As members, customers pay for a season’s worth of produce, or a share of the farm, in advance and receive diverse, fresh, locally grown vegetables weekly for the season. For customers, the benefits of this model are a diversified diet, fresher produce, seasonal eating and a relationship with the farm and farmers who produce their food. For farmers, the benefits are a reliable and flexible market, up-front funds to pay for seeds, supplies and labor and a relationship with the end users of their product.
CSA has long been the bread and butter of the MSU Student Organic Farm, or SOF, farming model and a great way for the program to connect with the greater MSU community. The SOF, a program of the Department of Horticulture, was the first Michigan farm to provide year-round CSA in 2003. Since then, they have continued to use CSA as a means to support undergraduate and beginning farmer education.
The SOF offers three sessions of CSA: a 10-week winter session, January to March, a 16-week summer session May to August and a 16-week fall session September to December. Members can choose between full or half shares and whether they will pick up at the farm or at an on-campus location. In addition to the produce in their shares, members have access to a u-pick garden on the farm and additional items for sale at CSA distribution such as fresh fruits, flowers, honey, eggs and meat.
Rod and Kathleen Sansone-Murphy have been CSA members at the Student Organic Farm since 2012. “Kathleen and I absolutely love being a small part of the Student Organic Farm,” Rod Sansone-Murphy said.
“In my years of being a member, we have loved interacting with the students who work on the farm,” Kathleen Sansone-Murphy said. “Taking our grandchildren out to the CSA member u-pick, trying the recipes included in the weekly CSA newsletter and sharing the fresh produce we get in our shares with friends and family.”
The Student Organic Farm was founded in 1999 out of a desire by faculty, staff and students to build a program dedicated to education and training in organic and sustainable production methods. Two decades later, students and farmers now have a wealth of learning resources and skill-building opportunities in organic agriculture on MSU’s campus. The MSU Student Organic Farm employs and trains undergraduate student crew members, leads educational tours of the farm to over 800 students and members of the public a year, participates in research, offers the Organic Farmer Training Program for beginning farmers and facilitates farming workshops throughout the state.
For those interested in eating well while supporting sustainable agriculture education at MSU through the Student Organic Farm, visit their website.