As I have written about before, becoming a CSA member (Community Supported Agriculture) is an increasingly popular way to buy local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer. With a CSA you buy “shares” from a farmer that you pay for up front to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation. In return, you get a box of fresh vegetables that is usually delivered each week.
Depending on the area you live in, and where the farm is, i.e. urban vs. rural, you can either pick up the box at the farm, or the farm has pick-ups or deliveries from a central location or locations on specific days and times.
While CSAs are a great way to support your local farmer and get involved in a community farm, CSA’s are not for everyone. Here are some things to think about and some questions to ask yourself before you join one.
How many fruits and vegetables do you really eat each day? Each week? While you may want to eat more and are working towards that goal, ask yourself honestly; “how much do I actually eat?” Is it worth the added expense to join if you are not going to eat all that you get?
You also want to be honest with yourself about the kind of eater you are. Are you picky? Are there some fruits or vegetables that you simply do not like, no matter what you do with them? If you are not adventurous, it will do you no good to get things you are not familiar with and that you may not like.
While your goal of joining a CSA may be to support a sustainable lifestyle, ironically if you don’t like what you are getting, you might end up wasting a lot of it and become frustrated because you don’t use what you get.
With a CSA you don’t know for sure what you are going to get each week. It depends not only on the specific crops that the farmer grows, but also on weather conditions and growing conditions. So you need to ask yourself, “is this uncertainty something that I can live with?”
To really enjoy being a CSA member you also need to have a flexible meal prep or cooking style. If you are a planner who likes to set up your menu days ahead, this might not be the best option for you. But, if you have no problem whipping up meals from what’s left in the pantry or without knowing what you have ahead of time, it will be perfect for you.
The other thing to consider is cost, while it is a simple way to get fresh local food; it is not affordable for everyone. In the US, a typical CSA subscription ranges between $400-$600 per season (between 15 to 20 weeks depending on location) for a weekly box that feeds two people. One way to make it more affordable is to share your CSA subscription with a friend or family member.
Some CSAs also offer a variety of payment plans to give members some flexibility in paying for their shares and can arrange payments in installments or offer sliding scale fees or scholarship shares.
The bottom line is to research to find out the best option for you, this includes the CSAs delivery methods. Does the drop off day or spot work for you and your schedule? What about the farming methods and what the farm grows? Are they also in line with your beliefs and your lifestyle.
Once you get past any doubts you may have and decide to join a CSA, sit back and enjoy the new adventure you are about to embark on.