Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to support small farms and get something great out of the experience. Most people who are familiar with CSA’s know it as a way to get a box of fresh food delivered to their homes. However, there are also fiber CSAs that you can support and instead of fresh veggies you’ll get fresh yarn!
What is a CSA?
In the past several decades small farms have really struggled to stay alive. Most people get their food from corporate farms and those have eaten up the little guys. Small farms have had to find innovative ways to develop strong connections with their customers so that they can continue to sell their products. One way that they do this through Community Supported Agriculture or the CSA.
As the name suggests, community supported agriculture is farming that is supported by the customers. Typically the way it works witha a vegetable farm is that the farmer sells shares of the farm to interested customers. The customers pay a certain fee and then they in turn get a share of the crops. This usually means a weekly or bi-weekly delivery of the freshest produce ready from the farm.
This works because it gives the farmer the cash needed up front to plant the year’s crops. The farmer and the CSA members both take a risk, because sometimes farms have bad crops, but they also both reap the rewards of a good crop year. The CSA member not only gets fresh food but often gets it at a lower price than if it was purchased at the grocery store.
Plus they get the benefit of having a personal relationship with their farmer. This strengthens communities. It’s nice to know where your products come from!
Fun fact: The Fiber Arts blog mentioned in a post last year that the concept of CSAs started in Germany in the 1960s and came to America in the mid-80s but it’s only been in recent years that it’s really taken off as a popular model.
So How Does a Fiber CSA Work?
A fiber CSA (sometimes called a yarn CSA) works similarly to the vegetable CSA. Members pay a fee up front, which helps the farm be able to afford to feed and care for their fiber-producing animals throughout the season. The CSA members then receive a portion of the fiber that is collected from the animals.
Each farm has their own rules, of course, so some will send the members fiber twice a year (spring and fall) and others send it out monthly or several times per year. Most farms offer both spun yarn and roving for spinning. Each farm will offer different perks for members as well, like discounts on purchases of other yarn, newsletter updates, even web cams where you can watch the farm that you support.
Like with the veggie CSAs, you don’t know how much yarn you’ll get until the season is complete. However, most fiber farms work hard to limit the number of CSA members so that each member gets a fair amount for the price that they pay.
Reasons to Support a CSA
Here are some of the reasons you might consider supporting a CSA fiber farm:
- Brand new yarns delivered to your doorstep
- You get to support a small fiber farm
- It’s fun to get info about the animals that are supplying your yarn
- A better chance to know that your yarn is coming from an ethical source that treats its animals well
- Usually you’ll get good prices on what are considered luxury yarns
- Brand new yarn delivered to your doorstep (did I say that already?!)
5 CSAs to Consider Supporting
It is ideal to support a CSA from a fiber farm in your local community. This gives you the most opportunity to interact with the farmer and the animals. CSA members are often invited out by the farms for shearing day and other events and that community interaction is what makes it all fun. But if you want to get started learning what yarn CSAs are all about, here are 5 of them to check out:
- Juniper Moon Farm. I’ve mentioned this fiber farm in the past because I follow their blog and was also a Kickstarter investor in the new By Hand magazine that’s coming out this year. I didn’t realize until recently that they are “the originator of the Yarn and Fiber CSA.” This Virginia-based farm raises Cormo, Cotswold and Babydoll Southdown sheep as well as angora goats and they keep all animals to live out their natural life spans on the farm. They work with a small local mill to process their animal fleeces into yarn and roving. They invite visitors once a month to the farm. You buy a share in the fiber harvest and that gets you a percentage of the yarn or roving (you can choose which) harvested that year. They currently charge $175 per share; 80% of their shareholders return for another share.
- A Wrinkle In Thyme Farm. This Maine farm has more than thirty sheep including Romney, Finnsheep and Finn-Fomney crosses. They also have angora bunnies. They charge $100 per CSA share. Shareholders can choose to receive natural yarn, hand dyed yarn, fiber to spin or hand dyed roving to felt. The fiber may be 100% wool, a wool/ mohair blend or can include angora blends. In some cases the CSA member can actually pick out which sheep they want to get their yarn from! They allow you to get your share as needed (per project) or all at once (usually when you come to visit the farm).
- That’ll Do Farm. This is an Ohio-based alpaca farm that offers several different CSA member options. One option is to choose your specific alpaca that you want to get yarn from. Alternatively you can choose either roving or yarn that comes mostly from the alpacas on the farm or sometimes from other local farms. The alpaca yarn is mixed with 15% merino wool and hand-dyed with natural plant-based dyed. CSA members also get coupons and discounts, free classes at the farm and invitations to on-farm events. Their yarn CSA share is $200.
- Brookfarm. This is also an alpaca farm but it’s based in California. You get to choose your yarn color – all natural colors, no dyes are used. You can purchase the CSA shares from through Etsy; this farm offers three CSA options starting at $150 per share and includes the option to get raw fleece and roving. Shearing is in May and delivery of yarn is in summer or fall.
- Jacob’s Reward Farm. This is a Texas based farm. The farm divides 100% of its fiber harvest between its CSA shareholder. They sold out of 2012 shares! This farm has both sheep and alpacas. In addition to the fiber, shareholders here get a coupon for a free dozen pasture-raised eggs from the farm, a free spinning lesson, and invitations to farm events.