Most of the CSA groups that most people know about are like the old co-ops except you know where the food is grown and you pay for it way before you get to eat it. Also you get to work a day or two on the farm during the growing season.
Here is how it works. People decide they want to eat better and decide they want to know where their food comes from and how it is grown. Then they find out that there is a farm near them (or at least somewhat near them) that they can support by buying a share of the crops that are going to be grown that year. You can usually buy a share or a half share. You write a check to the farmer in the spring along with others and the farmer uses this money to buy seed and whatever else he needs. During the growing season you pick up your share, usually once a week, at a convenient location. You are asked to help out a few days over the season by working at the farm or by putting shares together or delivering them. You get what ever is being harvested each week.
I like the concept but John and I don't eat enough fresh vegetables each week for it to work for us. I would be freezing stuff every week. If we didn't have a garden and two local farmer's markets I would do it though. Or maybe if we had 11 kids.
Last Saturday I went to a sheering party at a sheep farm that has a CSA group. A very good friend of mine sent me an email forwarding info on this farm so I went to check it out. This woman who has this farm is new to sheep, as I am, and has decided to offer shares of roving for spinning or skeins of yarn for money up front. Also for your $175.00 share you get to come to two shearing parties a year and read the woman's blog that updates you on what is happening on the farm.
I went to spy on her opporation so I casually wondered through the crowd (and what a crowd!). I overheard people saying they were so glad they knew where their yarn came from and they were so happy that they could have a close connection to a sheep farm and they felt like family--that kind of stuff. When I arrived she was giving away door prizes. She had a modern house with a two car garage with some yarn to buy in it that wasn't her yarn because that went to shareholders. She also had a calendar for sale. A young woman shearer was shearing Angora goats in a small barn. I saw some of her sheep in a pasture that surrounds her house but they didn't seem to be a focus of the day.
Seems like people want the clean peaceful side of farming not the down and dirty. I want to share my farm and the animals with people but I will do it differently. Stay tuned.