— Connie Carlson, Executive Director, and Jeff Aldrich, Food Council Member. Feature image by Mary Sue Stevens.
(Not sure what a CSA is? Read our article here.)
Thinking about joining a CSA but not sure if it’s right for you? Here are three important things to consider:
In survey after survey, one of the most common reasons why a customer either doesn’t continue his CSA or didn’t enjoy the experience is because he was unable to use all of the food. Full shares often have enough produce to feed a family of four. Even ½ shares can have more fresh food than you may have experience and time to use. Few of us enjoy throwing out food, especially when we know how hard our farmers work to produce it. Ask yourself: Do I have time to cook or preserve fresh food every week? Are there others with whom I can share what we are unable to use? Friends, extended family members, or a local food shelf?
Unless your CSA is delivered to your door every week*, you will need to carve time from your schedule every week (or every other week) to either pick your box up from your farmer on her farm, or meet-up at the drop-off location. When looking for the right CSA for you and your lifestyle, take into account how willing you are to add this effort to your schedule. For some, the pick-up time is a perk and they enjoy visiting the farm, running into friends, chatting in the late evening hours. For others, it can feel like an extra-to-do on an already full list. And, noone is happy when they completely forget to pick up their share! Ask yourself: Am I willing/able to add a new obligation to my weekly (or bi-weekly) schedule? Is there someone who would be able to pick up my share if I am unable to make it?
* Some CSAs do offer home delivery and generally the delivery fee ranges around $3/week. If you are interested in this and your farmer doesn’t list it as an option, consider asking her. Perhaps something can be arranged!
How much do you spend on fresh produce every week? How much are you willing to pay? An average CSA subscription is around 18 weeks and runs about $600 for a season. This is about $35/week for somewhere around 8-12 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, depending on the farm and the time of year. In basic economic terms, some may see this as a bargain, especially when considering how fresh the produce is and the quality of the food. But, different people have different measurements of what they value. Some buyers subscribe to a CSA because they want to support their local farmer, who may actually be a close friend or family member. Others value the fresh, nutritious food. Others love to cook.A CSA subscription is NOT a grocery shopping experience. You are investing in local food production and the direct return to you may not be immediately apparent. Ask yourself: How valuable is this experience to me?
If you are concerned that you won’t “get your money’s worth,” consider the following:
– Start Small: A typical ½ share runs 9 weeks (often every other week) and is enough to feed a 2 adults. (And, remember: the food is fresher so it lasts longer!) Consider investing in a ½ share and seeing how that goes for you. (Farmers often have extras, ask to purchase more if you really enjoy it!)
– Share the Experience: Find a friend to share a subscription. This is a great way to test it out and share the ups and downs. Splitting a full share is typically slightly less expensive than purchasing a half share. Splitting things like cabbages or melons at the pick up site, however, can present challenges.
– Do Your Homework: Your CSA farmer is a wealth of information on the food and often cooks, prepares, stores and preserves her produce. Most CSA farms have a newsletter (ask for a copy before you sign up and you’ll know exactly what to expect!) and they are often packed with recipes and tips for storage.
Do you have additional tips or ideas to share about making a CSA work for you? We’d love to hear from you! Share your ideas in the comments or find us on Facebook to continue the conversation.
Visit the CSA producers in our region to learn more:
- Sweet Beet Farm
- Fox and Fawn Farm
- The Little Boon Farm
- Mana Gardens
- Solar Fresh Produce
- French Lake Farmer
- Farm Farm
- Trumpeter Swan Farm
- Goatin Crazy Farms
SPECIAL EVENT: The Abundant Kitchen in Buffalo will be hosting a CSA Fair on February 24th. This is a great way to meet local CSA producers and ask questions. More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/216259272250290