Farm fresh food shares are remaining popular this year buoyed by the COVID-19 culture of eating nutritious food at home.

That’s not a surprise for Carrie Sedlak, FairShare CSA Coalition Executive Director.

“Since the pandemic, people have been spending more time cooking at home, and we’ve seen the demand for CSA growing,” Sedlak said.

Consumers turned to CSA full-force last March during Wisconsin’s safer-at-home orders when they were wary of going into grocery stores and food supply chain concerns grew. Others saw CSA farm produce as a great way to stay healthy during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Industry insiders report that the demand for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is again high with sign-ups, that just started this month, already filling up.

More than 40 farms, that are part of the FairShare have launched their season with customers buying shares of fresh food. And with plenty of options, it’s not one-size-fits-all.

Customers can have food delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. Shoppers can also purchase credit and use it at a farmer’s market table. Those who are willing to get their hands dirty can swap sweat equity for farm produce.

There are plenty more perks than just fresh produce. CSA shareholders get a chance to meet the farmers, get recipes on how to cook with the farm-fresh vegetables, and also support local businesses.

Customers can hone in on which CSA is right for them by using the farm search tool on the website.

The nearest location, Two Good Farms, operates out of Columbus and Rio, with CSA pick-ups and deliveries in the Sun Prairie area. Share cost range from $300 for a market style to $565 for a full summer. Owner Tim Zander says CSA shares sold out early last year and this year sign-ups are already ahead by about 100 percent compared with 2020.

There’s also other CSA farms throughout Wisconsin that serve Sun Prairie addresses.

Sedlak suggests those who are interested don’t wait because some farms have already sold out of CSA shares, even this early in the season.

By selling CSA shares in advance, the farmer can preplan a season and get money to support operations. Sedlak said that helps support Wisconsin farmers at a time when some are leaving the industry because of climate change and the end of the family-farm ownership lineage.

With the COVID-19 bearing down on some types of businesses, Sedlak has seen an increase in support for farmers.

“People are wanting to rally around small businesses in the community,” she added.

People don’t have to have big bucks to get bountiful fresh produce; CSAs are accessible to customers with limited funds.

Federal CARES ACT funds have bolstered support for a cost-sharing program for households above 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Sedlak called these the “next step folks” that usually don’t qualify for the program and can afford to pay a sliding scale of 25-75 for CSA shares.

So far this year, people applying for the program has doubled, and Sedlak said more federal funding could expand the program.

Even though harvest season is many months away, FairShare CSA Coalition is planning a celebration of local farms with the Routes to Root event. Participants download an app and take a tour of CSA farms across the state by foot, bike or car.

With audio commentary from farmers speaking about the food they grow and the go-at-your-own-pace farm tours, Sedlak said it highlights the importance of Wisconsin agriculture and a way to make a homegrown connection.

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