Hundreds of small farms and backyard producers are embracing the unique climates of the Pacific Northwest. As they produce, these small farms are also looking to support their operations or gain profit they can use to grow. And that's where the CSA, or "farm share," comes in.

What is a CSA / farm share?

CSA stands for "community supported agriculture," but may commonly be known as a farm share. The CSA allows the farmer to sell a "share" of their product each season to local customers, who get farm-to-table fresh food at a discounted rate from their local grocery store. It connects customers directly to their local farmers, promoting a healthy local food economy. Many CSAs offer delivery, and some areas allow CSAs to be purchased with SNAP benefits.

Customers need to remember that a farm share, like a stock share, includes an implied, shared risk. Agriculture is at the whims of weather, pests, and circumstances beyond each producer's control. That means that sometimes, a CSA will not deliver what customers might expect. However, the purchase of a CSA helps the farmer or rancher offset these losses and, if possible, offer different options for their CSA owners. Sometimes, producers will even try new things at the request of their CSA share owners!

How do customers find a CSA that works for them?

The USDA also offers a local food directory and guidance for producers looking to begin a CSA program.

One of the most common places to search for local CSAs in Washington is through the website Eat Local First. This site allows customers to search by location, season, or type of food to make that first connection and buy a share. The Pacific NW Community Supported Agriculture website extends this to Oregon as well. Idaho offers a directory of CSAs on "Idaho Preferred."

How many CSAs are available in the Pacific Northwest?

There are over 300 farms and producers offering CSA farm shares in the Pacific Northwest (over 250 in Washington alone). Customers can find meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables, flowers, grains, honey, and more throughout the year. Areas like Portland have over a hundred CSA drop-off points, making it extremely easy for urban areas to access fresh food without having to drive out of the city.

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