Fifteen years ago, when I moved to Western Massachusetts from Long Island, one of my primary motives was to be closer to my food source. I wanted more access to local farms and to fresh, organic, and seasonal food.
I knew the region was a rich agricultural area and I immediately signed up for a CSA.
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.
A CSA is a direct farm-to-consumer business model whereby community members pay a local farm a one-time fee that covers one growing season and then usually, once a week, go to the farm to pick up their share of food.
Benefits of CSAs
Common benefits of joining a CSA include supporting your local farms (and thus, your local economy), and supporting your own health and the health of your family by buying and cooking fresh, whole foods.
Other benefits include knowing where your food comes from, getting to know your local farmers, helping to preserve local farmland, and shortening the distance your food travels (most foods in supermarkets are transported thousands of miles).
There are many other benefits too! I wrote a separate article on some of the not-so-common but really cool reasons to join a CSA.
CSAs have exploded in popularity in recent decades as more and more Americans are becoming aware of the many problems with the industrial food system.
Most CSAs are vegetable CSAs and operate from June through October during the peak growing season months. However, there are many types of farms beyond vegetable farms and many have adopted the CSA model.
5 Great CSAs in the Pioneer Valley
Here in the Pioneer Valley, we have many CSA options! In fact, I was once a member of four CSAs at the same time. One of them was a Community Supported Fishery (CSF), technically not a CSA, but based on the same idea.
Anyway, now is typically the time of the year to sign up for a CSA. So on that note, here are 5 great CSAs located in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.
1. Mountain View Farm, Easthampton
I’m a current member of this organic vegetable CSA. It’s very popular and one of the more established CSAs in the area. Located at the base of Mount Tom, the farm also boasts beautiful pick-your-own fields which include flowers, herbs, vegetables, tomatoes, and even strawberries. The pick-your-own fields are at no additional cost to members. They also have a winter share option.
2. Crimson and Clover Farm, Florence
As a past member of this wonderful CSA, it hurt my soul a little to leave because I loved it so much (I switched because I moved closer to Mountain View). But I only have positive things to say about it. The farmers are dedicated to organic and sustainable growing methods. The produce was always fresh and fantastic. And just like Mountain View, they have some beautiful pick-your-own fields.
3. Nuestras Raicas, Holyoke
More than just a CSA, Nuestras Raices is also a network of urban community gardens, educational programs, and farmer’s markets. They advocate for food systems change by increasing awareness and access to fresh, good-quality food in urban communities. Their main farm in south Holyoke includes Hispanic specialty crops, tours, programs, and both winter and summer CSA shares.
4. Chestnut Farms Meat CSA, Hardwick
Although technically not located in the Pioneer Valley, Chestnut Farms is a small family farm that delivers once a month to locations in Amherst and Northampton. I’ve been a member since I moved to western MA in 2008 and love that I can support farmers who care about the welfare of their animals.
All of the animals are pasture-raised with plenty of room to roam and graze. The farm is also 100% powered with renewable energy (solar) and uses regenerative agricultural methods. Monthly shares include different cuts of beef, chicken, pork, and sometimes lamb.
5. Sawmill Herb Farm CSA, Florence
Also located in Florence, this small organic farm grows over 100 varieties of herbs! I was a member for a few years and really enjoyed expanding my knowledge of herbs beyond the basic culinary kitchen herbs like thyme, basil, and parsley.
While they certainly include culinary herbs, there are many other medicinal herbs that can be used to make tinctures, teas, salves, and balms. In fact, they also offer an apothecary share of pre-made wellness products from their farm.
Other CSAs in Western Massachusetts
Of course, this is just a short list! There are dozens more options in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. If you’d like to find a CSA close to where you live, check out the website of the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.
You can also find other farmer’s markets, farm stands, orchards, garden centers, pick-your-own fields, food trucks, and restaurants serving food from local farms.
If you live outside Western Massachusetts, check out https://www.localharvest.org/csa/
MORE FROM FEARLESS EATING: