Even though I am all about purchasing everything local, I still have my doubts about joining a CSA at least for my family. There are many families out there that are part of them that love them, but as for us I have decided to opt out of joining one for this summer. If you have never been part of a CSA and are teetering on the fence hopefully this article can help you navigate if a CSA is right for you. But, before I get started here is a question that I know there are a few people out there asking.
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Typically when you participate in a CSA you take part in a share. You are supporting a local community farm by ultimately purchasing in bulk along with everyone else. Often times when you join a CSA you get a box of food on a weekly basis. Sometimes the frequency is less depending on the farmer and the product. I’ve been part of both a meat CSA where the farmer provided a bi-weekly mix of chicken, beef, and pork as well as a fruit and vegetable CSA where the farmer provided a weekly box of a fruit and veggie mix. Generally you get whatever is in season at the time in your box and don’t know ahead of time what you will get.
PROS of a CSA
- You are in Full Support of a Local Farm – By joining a CSA you ensure that you get the bulk of your produce from a local farmer and contributing to your local economy.
- Organic Foods on the Cheap – Often times those in a CSA get priority and if you can eat all the food you get you are often saving a little money over farmer’s market prices. Although you may be able to find many of these fruits and veggies in the store for less you are often still saving money if you like to purchase organic on a regular or full-time basis.
- You Get Foods that are in Season – You get foods that are in the prime of their freshness and literally picked from the vine often only the evening or day before you get your produce. You can’t get much better nutritional value than that. Often times when you are purchasing food from the grocery store it has come miles and miles before you get it and had to be picked early so that it won’t over ripen before it reaches you.
- You Often Get a Large Box of a Variety of Foods – If you and your family are into trying new dishes and new veggies you will love a CSA. Often times you will receive vegetables that you may have never before eaten or that you have no idea how to prepare. Unless you ask the farmer you may not even know what they are. It was a challenge and fun for me to be able to figure out new recipes and how to try out a veggie. If you purchase a full share you also get a rather large box. Depending on how large your family is and how much you can eat or put away this can either be a good thing or a bad thing.
- Grocery Shopping Done For You – It is nice to just go pick up your box and not have to do all the supermarket shopping. Ah, I really enjoy much of my grocery shopping done for me!
CONS of a CSA
- It’s a Large Box – My family consists of me, my husband, and my two little kids. The box was much too large for us. And at least half my family is picky eaters so it was extremely hard to conquer the box. It might have been nice to split the box with another family so that it could all be enjoyed. It pained me to have to throw away things, but it didn’t always keep well if it was put away.
- There are a Variety of Foods – Often times I was experimenting with new recipes to find that I was the only one willing to eat them. Not only is this a complete bummer and a waste of food, but it felt like a lot of work for one person to eat what they’ve cooked. I love eggplant but my family can’t stand it. So whenever I’d get an abundance of egg plant there was no way that I could eat it all.
- Money Waster – Although I love supporting local agriculture I don’t have the money to purchase a CSA and not use all the goods. Sometimes being part of a a CSA last summer did waste our money. Often times I could cook the foods to everyone’s liking and I was the only one trying to stuff away all the veggies that we had been blessed with.
- Hard to Meal Plan – If you are trying to save money meal planning like I am it is very hard to do so when you don’t know what fruits and veggies you are going to get. I feel as though I was scrounging for recipes at the last minute to please my family when it was rather hard to do.
I want to encourage you to examine both the pros and cons of a CSA and see which option fits your family. Right now I believe that we are not going to participate because it just won’t get eaten, and I will once again be trying to conquer the CSA box. Until then you will find me on Saturday mornings shopping the local farmer’s market as much as I can. I really do love buying local and want to support local businesses whenever I can! But, I also like making sure our money is always put to good use.
What about you? Are you part of a CSA or not? I would love to hear your thoughts on being part of a CSA in the comment section below.