Basically, you pay a farmer in the beginning of the year for a share of his or her crops. This gives the farmer some cash up front which can be used to purchase seeds, pay employees, buy equipment, etc - all the normal start up costs of a business. Many CSA programs offer payment plans, and will allow you to work on the farm in exchange for veggies, which leaves lots of options for people without the income to pay up front.
I know, I know - I said that I wanted a yard so I could have a garden and this is still true.
**Warning - round of excuses beginning.**
I bought a gardening book which said I should start a garden in the fall. I do not know the area I moved to and thusly do not know what is best method for hiring someone or borrowing or renting a tiller. I was not certain how to start a garden from yard. I did not have the proper tools. and: I did not know how much / what to plant.
**OK, I think I am done.**
So, I decided joining a CSA would help me learn what to plant and how much, and allow me to start a small garden on my own time this summer instead of Mother Nature's. Because in January, February, and most of March, I was busy with house buying/moving/painting/decorating.
I found my CSA through a really useful site called Marylands Best. At first, I was looking for the Farmers Markets near my new house, so I sort of stumbled across this idea. I tried valiantly to be a regular marketer last summer, but many Farmers Markets are held during weekday mornings. Out of 20 markets near my old apartment, I had a list of three that were conveniently (enough) located and at a reasonable time which did not require time off from work or waking at ungodly single digit hours on a weekend. Farmers Markets tend to operate using this crazy old fashioned currency made of paper and metal. I hear tell the stuff can be gotten from machines, but I rarely remembered to visit one of these before the market, and this was another deterrent.
As I read about CSA's on a whim, I realized I need not alter my lifestyle for the sake of produce. I paid in one lump sum, thus erasing the need for that paper stuff, and the pickups are once a week after work. As a two person household, practically 1-1/4 since Adam refuses nearly all vegetables, I was looking for a reasonable share size that was reasonably priced and reasonably close to home. I found all three! Yippee!