To CSA, or Not to CSA
CSA stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. Typically, you pay a lump sum at the beginning of the year/season, and in return you get a weekly or biweekly box of vegetables from that farm. Many have expanded to offer fruits, eggs, meat, and even seafood.
These boxes are great, for many reasons.
- Paying in advance means the farmer is getting a guaranteed return, and cuts their economic liability
- Consumers get a guaranteed box of farm fresh items, that change based on the time of the season
- Consumers get the chance to try new and different vegetables, because farmers have the ability to select varieties based on taste and uniqueness, and not just what will sell to a market
- Consumers get to support local agriculture, and create relationships with the people who are growing their food
- Newer CSA models might include shares like winter shares (storage root vegetables and/or frozen summer produce), a forage share (with items that can be foraged wild, such as ramps, scapes, and mushrooms), or plant shares (to get seedlings that can be planted in a container or garden.)
There can be some disadvantages as well.
- It can be quite a bit of money to pay upfront for a whole season (it is around $600 for my area, for June to November deliveries, which averages $21 per week, but is still a significant upfront cost.)
- as you are buying into a single farm (usually) or area, if there are any natural disasters, it may reduce or eliminate your remaining share.
- it can be daunting to face a box of strange vegetables every week, and make sure they are used or preserved before they go bad or the next weeks share is in.
- The pickup times may be inconvenient, and many have additional work requirements.
I’m sad to say, but I don’t think I will be participating in the CSA this year, mainly because the pickup time is not convenient (I’m working), and the day of the pickup is the day my workweek starts, so I would have less time to deal with the produce.
However, I do want to support my local food economy, and I want farm fresh vegetables to do so. I will be doing a “Make Your Own CSA,” and a monetary commitment to fresh vegetables that will be split among the local farmers markets, and my local food cooperative.
- To spend $20 per week on local vegetables, bought at the farmers market or food coop. (the CSA is around $21 per week, so this should get me a comparable share. )
- To try at least one “new” vegetable each week, to signify the variety that would appear in a CSA box
In addition, I will be purchasing local poultry from the markets, and my dry goods through the food coop. I also want to do a few bulk purchases of tomatoes, so I can can my own tomatoes to reduce my BPA exposure.
What has your decision been? Have you bought a CSA share, or can you pledge to spend a similar amount at local food places?