Today was our first produce pick-up of the season with our CSA. I’m really looking forward to the months ahead and I thought I would share with you some reasons to join a CSA.
CSA: Community Supported Agriculture
As a CSA member, you purchase a “share” of a local farm before the growing season begins. In my area, many farms have wait lists so it is good to think about this early (even up to a year in advance). Your share size is determined by how much vegetables you plan on eating. Are you single or a do you have a family? Are you a vegetarian or do you eat more vegetables than the average person? Once the farm is ready to harvest their first crops in the spring they schedule their first “pick-up,” which could be at the farm or at a designated location. My farm is over an hour away from my house, but once a week they deliver the produce to several areas in my town. My pick-up is less than a mile from home.
1. Support a local farmer
This is the main reason I joined my CSA. Local farmers are struggling to compete with low cost produce from large industrial farms. By purchasing your share before the season begins, they can be comfortable knowing that a bad year won’t put them out of business. Yes, it is a risk you take as the member, but also know that the members receive a generous bounty when weather conditions have been good to the farm. With payment taken care of in advance, the farmer is also able to focus more on the farm during harvest, rather than the business of pricing, selling, etc.
2. Eat more fruits and vegetables
This one is pretty obvious, but it is another amazing benefit of a CSA. Since you have already paid for the produce, you better get your money’s worth. You are certainly more likely to eat food that is already in your home, rather than having to go to the store. And next week there will be another delivery, so you must make room in the fridge! Eat up!
3. Try NEW fruits and vegetables or re-try ones you thought you didn’t like
Have you ever had or even seen a kolrahbi? Would you even know what to do with it? Thought you hated radishes? Maybe you don’t like them raw, but that recipe your farmer sent for pickled radishes seems kind of interesting. While most farms grow your usual assortment of produce, they sometimes like to throw in a few quirky items here and there. Often their newsletter will explain the items you will receive and how to best prepare them. A purple carrot? Try it, you might like it!
4. Spend less time in the grocery store
During the summer, the last place I want to be is the grocery store. With your produce taken care of, you can be in and out in a jiffy. If you plan it well, you may be able to stock up at a store once or twice a month. And look at what other items the farm may offer. Many CSAs also provide eggs, honey, bread and meat.
5. Save money on organic produce
Organic produce can be expensive to purchase, especially in a conventional grocery store. There they have to mark up the produce since it is something that doesn’t move as often. My farm is certified organic, which is nice. Some farms, while not actually certified, may still employ organic practices (certification can be expensive for a small farm). Just ask your farmer about how they do it. They are always happy to share.
6. Meet like minded people
Weekly produce pick-ups are a great way to build community. You see the same people week after week and get to know them. Like you, they are interested in where their food comes from and supporting local businesses. They may know a great source for grass-fed beef, or talk about their favorite vendor at the farmer’s market. You can also connect on different levels, like “how do you like your stroller?” (which, by the way, is a question I have asked random strangers about a million times).
7. Learn about the workings of a farm and become a better gardener yourself
As a CSA member, you can get access to a farm without actually, you know, owning a farm. Many offer a reduced price on shares if you volunteer your time and a little sweat equity for working days. Some also offer special days where you can harvest your own produce, like we did with strawberries and asparagus. While we were there, our farmer provided us with little tidbits on how they fertilize, rotate crops and which cops thrive or fail in our climate. Priceless.
So have I missed any? What do you love about your CSA? If you aren’t a member yet, have I convinced you to join?