Every week for the past four summers, a delivery truck parks at Shedd’s loading dock. Instead of dropping off sea salt or food for our collection, the driver unloads boxes bulging with locally grown organic produce for our staff.

Shedd participates in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where customers (“shareholders”) pay a local farmer up front for a portion of the season’s crops. Farmers use the money to fund operations on their farms, which are often organic. In return, shareholders receive a share of each week’s harvest for the season. Shedd works with farmer Vicki Westerhoff, who runs Genesis Growers just down the road in St. Anne, Illinois.

Why is Shedd part of a CSA? Through CSAs, people directly support local, organic agriculture which is one of the most powerful actions that we can take to protect healthy land, water, air, and wildlife. It is also good for our health: shareholders receive a variety (and a lot!) of organic vegetables, fruits and herbs throughout the season.

Unlike the grocery store, CSA shareholders get what is currently growing. It takes a little adjustment – if you’re like me, you didn’t t fully grasp the seasonality of “everyday” crops such as spinach! Yet, this seasonal variety winds up being fun: when our boxes included Daikon (a type of radish) the length of my forearm, you could almost see the creative gears turning as my fellow shareholders began thinking about how to prepare it.

Shareholders also have unique opportunities to connect with farmers. Many CSAs hold workdays for subscribers – and believe me, you appreciate that tomato so much more when you realize how much work it takes to plant or pick a row of its friends.

Wherever you live, you’re probably closer to a local farmer than you think.  

Check out Local Harvest to find a CSA or farmers market near you!

Posted by Meg Matthews, conservation