By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Feb 24, 2014 at 8:03 AM

On Saturday, March 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Urban Ecology Center hosts its 12th annual Local Farmer Open House.

This free event was created in 2002, with the goal of assisting the community in connecting with local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers. Today, over 1,000 people attend the event each year to connect with over 20 farms.

And, it’s no wonder. After all, according to experts, consumers who participate in CSAs are likely tapping into one of the most affordable ways to enjoy fresh local food.

Dailyfinance.com estimates that consumers who join CSAs save up to 40 percent on seasonal produce. In addition, buying produce direct from a local farm ensures some of the freshest and most delicious food available.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is like having your own personal farmer. Essentially a partnership between farms and consumers, CSA programs ensure that members receive weekly deliveries of fresh produce throughout the growing season in exchange for financial support that allows farmers to earn a living wage while making vital improvements to their land and operations.

The Open House on March 8 allows guests to speak with different farmers about what each CSA offers. CSA shares differ in size, length of season, variety of fruit and vegetables offered and drop off locations. To make CSA membership more affordable, many farms have payment plans or offer worker shares to defray the cost

Shares typically begin in May or June and persist through October or November. Members can choose from half- or whole-shares, depending on the amount of produce they anticipate using each week. In addition to fruits and vegetables, some farms offer the option to buy eggs, meat or other items on a weekly basis.

Anne Steinberg, an event organizer, describes why she supports the Open House:

"You’ll also know that you’re helping to keep small family farms in business – farmers who use sustainable growing methods and produce high quality food. I enjoy a bounty of fresh, tasty, nutritious veggies, fruit and eggs in my CSA share – grown on a family farm I visit each year."

In addition to opportunities to gather information, talk with farmers and sign up for CSA’s, attendees can also attend educational workshops including:

Intro to CSA's (11:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.) – Jamie Ferschinger of the Urban Ecology Center will explain how Community Supported Agriculture programs work. 

Cooking from your CSA box (12:15 or 2 p.m.) – Annie Wegner LeFort, Chef and Master Food Preserver, will share ideas for more efficiently using the contents of a weekly CSA box to prepare quick healthy meals. Recipes, tips, and resources for cooking seasonally from scratch will be provided. 

A list of participating farms is on the Urban Ecology Website.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.