A local food system in Iowa, in which farmers deliver fresh fruits, vegetables and other products directly to consumers, is growing in popularity. In fact, most Community Supported Agriculture farms — or CSAs — in the state having a waiting list for membership.
Matt Russell, with the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, says CSA members pay a local farm to deliver baskets of produce, generally once a week or every other week, during harvest time. "Most CSAs, if it’s a very abundant year, you’re going to see overflowing baskets," Russell says, "but if it’s dry or a drought year, you’re baskets going to be a little thinner. Part of the CSA model is you’re sharing the risk with the farmer."
Many CSA farms are certified organic. Russell says they can also provide consumers with both variety and volume. "For people who are trying to eat more fruits and vegetable or have a healthier diet, this is a great way to be connected with what’s growing fresh and help you diversify your diet and try new things," Russell said.
In some respects, Iowans who live in metropolitan areas have an easier time connecting to a CSA. A farmer can deliver a truck load of product to a central location in a city, on a regular basis, where CSA members can pick up their baskets. "Membership typically is in more of an urban area, but we are seeing more and more CSAs grow in the rural areas and smaller towns. As more people become aware of it, there’s a bigger market for this and therefore more farms are starting to figure out how they can start a small CSA in a rural community," Russell said.
Although CSAs have existed in Iowa for several years, Russell says there’s not an organized, statewide directory. "We don’t have a real good handle on where all the CSAs are and how many there are," Russell says, "we think there are about 60. Every year, some people start and every year, some people kind of retire from it." Russell says most of the CSAs in Iowa have their own individual websites, but he encourages Iowans who want to connect with a CSA to call him directly, at the Drake Agricultural Law Center, at 515-271-4956 or email at email@example.com.