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Today’s agricultural catchphrase is “local” with options being offered in various formats. Fresh local produce and goods are able to be bought at farmers markets, grocery stores and roadside stands with gifts from the backyard also appreciated. Another popular way to acquire fresh out of the field products is becoming a member of a Community Supported Agriculture or, as they are commonly known, CSA. These business models have been around for many years and are very useful for farmers.
A CSA is a program where a person can purchase shares from a farming operation. These can, and do, encompass the range of agricultural goods that are available. In exchange, the shareholder is presented with products from the operation. These can be weekly or monthly and always seasonal. The funds help the farmer with the security they need at the beginning of the growing season. 
According to localharvest.com, CSAs have been a popular source of food for 25 years. The shares are sometimes referred to as memberships or subscriptions and the participants receive a unit of goods, whether in a box, basket or bag. Some farms connect with other local producers to include a range of goods beyond what the farm produces alone. Additional items may be meat, flowers, herbs, honey, cheese, eggs, baked goods and maple syrup.
Another perk to a CSA is the opportunity for the consumer to meet and get to know the farmer and vice versa. The participants can share their thoughts on what is offered and the producer takes those ideas into consideration for the next growing season. While there are many who offer this “product”, it is common that there is more demand than can be supplied. LocalHarvest has a comprehensive listing of over 4,000 CSAs that are accepting customers.
While the most common CSA is the vegetable one, there are creative farmers and producers who have developed unusual ones for the discerning consumers. There are individual CSAs for fruits, flowers, herbs and meats along with the combination units offered.
One unusual idea that has been making its way through the crafting community is a fiber and yarn CSA. These are offered by fiber producers who raise Angora rabbits, Pygora goats, camels, yaks, alpacas, llamas and of course, sheep. The fiber artists are quite interested in the variations along with supporting rare breeds of these animals. The participants will receive the fiber at various stages ranging from fleeces to skeins of yarn ready for their needle or hook. Some farms even let the members choose the animal whose fiber they will buy. 
Any of these CSAs are opportunities to encourage small farms, local products and hard-working producers. Check out your local newspapers, extension or conservation offices, or the area farmers market to find the CSA that will fit the niche and needs in your family’s life.

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