With several feet of snow still on the ground, it is hard to believe that the 2008 garden season is just around the corner. And, as local farmers start to gear up for the new farming season, now is the time to think about joining a CSA. 

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The concept originated in Japan where the first CSA was formed when a group of Japanese women banded together to purchase fresh milk. The idea was to create an alternative distribution system, not dependant on the conventional market.  
The CSA concept was brought to the U.S. in the 1980s and has been growing ever since. CSAs today take many forms, but the underlying premise is the same. CSAs are a way for consumers and farmers to form direct partnerships. With a CSA, the consumer helps the farm out early in the season by providing some much needed cash upfront so the farmer can buy seed and other supplies to get the growing season started. The farmer, in return, provides the CSA customer with fresh food over the course of the season.  
The Mad River Valley now has four CSAs.
Gaylord Farm CSA The Gaylord Farm offers several CSA options including a summer vegetable CSA, a meat CSA and a winter storage vegetable CSA. The Gaylord Farm CSA is traditional in that members pick up their food each week, on Wednesdays, beginning in mid June through the fall. People who participate in the Gaylord CSA get a variety of vegetables. While there are the usual standards like lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and corn, sometimes the weekly share includes something different, like artichokes, that shoppers might not otherwise buy. It is a great way to become a little more adventurous with vegetables, according to past subscribers. The meat CSA provides local, grass-fed beef and farm-raised chicken and pork. Each week, members get two packages of meat that is vacuum-packed and will keep for a long time in the freezer.  
Hartshorn Farm Green Card Instead of a traditional CSA, organic farmer Dave Hartshorn offers a "Green Card" CSA where members pay him in advance and essentially get a debit card that can be used at the farm stand or at the Hartshorn booth at the farmers' market. To entice buyers to make this early season investment, they get a 10 percent discount. People who buy the green card have the flexibility of being able to buy what they want, when they want it.  
Knoll Farm CSA For the second year, the Knoll Farm will be offering an heirloom vegetable, blueberry, and egg CSA. Last year the CSA was very small and this year farmer Helen Whybrow plans to expand to about 10 shares. The Knoll Farm CSA is a traditional CSA model providing members with a basket of fresh vegetables each week on Tuesdays throughout the summer. People who participate in the Knoll Farm CSA receive a variety of heirloom vegetables and eggs from time to time as well as blueberries in August.  
Mountain Flower Farm Weekly Bouquet CSA With the Mountain Flower Farm CSA members get a fresh bouquet each week from Mother's Day through the last farmers' market in the fall. Like the other CSAs, Mountain Flower Farm CSA members pay in advance, but instead of veggies or meat, they get flowers fresh from the fields.