This year my family joined a local CSA for the first time. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it typically takes the form of purchasing a share of a crop from a farmer for a season.
Tim and I have been interested in doing this for a few years now. It is a wonderful way to support a local farmer and to ensure that you get some delicious veggies and fruits all season. But there are a few reasons we have resisted in the past.
1. The up-front costs are tough to work into our budget. You typically have to pay for an entire season of produce at one time. Prices can range from $200-$600 depending on the length of the season and the amount of food the farmer anticipates providing.
2. Picking up the produce each week can be cumbersome. Farmers typically have drop off locations, either at local farmer’s markets or at other designated locations. You must pick up your share within a designated time frame at the same place and on the same day each week.
When we moved recently, we realized that we would be a 2 minute walk from a weekly farmer’s market. It was also a weekly drop-off location for a few CSAs. The convenience factor was certainly there, so we just had to bite the bullet and pull some money out of savings to pre-pay for all that food. I believe we spent about $400 for a half share in a program that runs for 26 weeks. Not gonna lie…that was a tough check to write.
But I am absolutely THRILLED that I did it! I wanted to share with you all the reasons I will be participating in this same program again next year because I’m guessing that some of you have considered participating in a CSA but just haven’t been able to make yourself join, yet. Maybe sharing my experience will help you!
First and foremost, we now eat substantially more vegetables than we ever did before. I used to tell myself, “No need to join a CSA…I can just buy lots of yummy things in the grocery store and get exactly what I want each week.” If you have trouble being an adventurous produce eater and you have trouble spending a lot of money in the produce section, you are kidding yourself if you think you’ll just magically start now. You won’t. You’ll buy too few veggies and too few varieties just like always. Now that I’m part of the CSA, I get a lot of veggies every week, no questions asked. I don’t even get to pick and choose what I get, and that’s actually a great thing.
This leads me to the second reason why I’ll do this again: I’m eating veggies I’ve never tried before and that I always thought I hated! I had never even heard of kohlrabi before this year, but now I’ve got a few dishes that I love using this root veggie. I also always thought I hated squash, but I have found some very clever ways to make use of it in spaghetti sauce, in pita pockets, raw in a salad, and even in muffins, if you can believe it! I have really been able to get creative in the kitchen.
The third reason I’ll do this again is because I’m getting a good value for organic produce. Sure, I’m paying more than I would for conventional produce from the store, but I promise you, if I went to Whole Foods and bought the same items every week from their organic selections, I’d be spending more. And I wouldn’t be supporting a local farm!
The fourth reason I’ll be doing this again is because the produce really and truly does taste better. I’d heard this before but didn’t really believe it. But let me tell you, there is a qualitative difference between a tomato that has traveled just 20 miles and was picked that morning and one that has traveled 2,000 miles and was picked a week ago. The flavors are outstanding, and that means all the food we are making tastes better!
Finally, I will do this again because it has really been a joy actually getting to know our farmer. I know the faces behind the produce my family eats. That is such a cool thing!
If you are interested in seeing what CSA opportunities might be in your neck of the woods, check out localharvest.org for a list of your options!
Do you participate in a CSA? Are you happy with your experience? If you aren’t participating, what is holding you back? I’d love to hear!!!
Disclosure: Nobody asked me to write this post, and nobody paid for my CSA membership (I WISH!). I just wanted to share this really great experience with you!