To CSA or not to CSA, whaddya think? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 05-13-2005, 03:53 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm toying with the idea of buying a CSA share from a local farm this season (I've been thinking about it for a couple years) but I'm having trouble taking the plunge. I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Here's the scoop:

The share provides about a half bushel of veggies per week for 19 weeks. The produce is organic and obviously, quite fresh. They say that this quantity could feed 2 veggie loving adults or 3-4 more moderate veggie eaters. There's just DH and I and DD (age 2) and she doesn't eat terribly much produce aside from apples, bananas, pears, and some peas and broccoli.

Items grown include greens, beans/peas, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, squash, melons, corn, etc. Most of these are items that we do not typically buy organic (we usually buy organic milk, eggs, bananas, broccoli, spinach, apples, and carrots).

The cost of a share is $355 if I pick up from the farm (about 20 min from home) or $395 if I pick up from a local drop point (not sure where that would be).

So here are my questions/concerns:

1. I'm afraid that the cost (approx $15-$20/week) will be more that I would typically have spent on produce during that same time period, and I'll still be needing to go out and buy DD's apples, bananas, and pears.

2. I'm concerned about waste-either that the food will rot before we can eat it all, or that we'll throw out items that we don't eat (neither DH or I care for peppers or radishes for example and both are on the grow list-I'm also not sure what I'd do with a bunch of tomatillos or kale for example).

3. As an FYI, I don't have anybody to split the share with-most of our family/freinds live about an hour away and the only local people I know who might be interested are already buying full shares of their own (and they want full shares).

I welcome hearing your thoughts/experiences, especially from those of you who have participated in similar programs. I can also pm the link to the specific CSA if people want more details before providing input (I just felt weird linking to them publically for some reason).

ETA; Adding more info based upon additional research-there's another CSA program at a different farm also 20 min away. They offer a 1/2 share program which allows one to pick up 3/4 bushel of produce (50% more food) every other week for 20 weeks (an additional week) at a cost of $285. They sell 130 shares vs. the other farm's 75 shares. They are not certified organic but have submitted for certification (so obviously organic growing practices are in place).

Another option: a weekly farmer's market also about 20 min. away. Says they have approx. 30 vendors selling fruits/veggies and other healthy goods. Would be fresh and I could pick/choose, but I don't know what the pricing/availability would be or if the items are organic.

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#2 of 7 Old 05-13-2005, 04:10 PM
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On the one hand, I would say that if you have these kinds of serious doubts, a CSA may not be for you.

On the other hand, I had some of the same feelings when we were CSA members and it turned out to be a great thing for us - we were able to freeze a good amount of what we didn't eat (and weren't rushed to do so, because it was all so fresh) and were introduced to some veggies we hadn't tried before that are now some of our favorites. Our CSA solicited recipes for members for dealing with various gluts throughout the season and also allowed trades - so we could trade something we really didn't like to someone who wanted it (easier when you do farm pickup).

Plus, there are the intangibles - which vary according to the farm. Our CSA had a lot of community events - canning bees, bonfires and so on which made even the occasional disappointment worth while. It was a wonderful community and we were happy to be a part of it.

(Also, is there anyone you might be able to split your share with on the side? - the farm doesn't need to be involved in this kind of arrangement. Or, maybe you can barter veggies you don't like for other services/goods from neighbors.)
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#3 of 7 Old 05-13-2005, 08:50 PM
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I have found that doing the CSA really caused me to expand what I would eat. It also ensured fewer trips to the store, so I save at least what I am spending for the share, as I am not impulse shopping. I have a compost bin, so if something does go bad, I throw it in there and don't feel too badly about it.

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#4 of 7 Old 05-13-2005, 10:15 PM
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There is a big CSA program in my area, but we have decided not to get it because, like you, we are concerned about waste. We'll just go to the farmers market that the CSA has 2x a week for the things we want and know we will eat.

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#5 of 7 Old 05-14-2005, 10:32 AM
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This is going to be a biased response since I work on a CSA farm. But last year we were like you debating etc...the same sorts of things. I really believe in CSA as a moral and ethical issue was what swung the vote for us. And we did get food we didn't like. Beets, radishes. But we learned and it was good for us. And when we didn't like it I liked knowing we were eating totally in tune with the seasons (which of course you would be with a farmer's market visit too) and supporting a local farmer. Investing in their farm as a community. I really really believe in CSA. So this is what I would say - if you can afford it - go for it. You won't know til you try. At best it will broaden your horizons and get you to eat more veggies. At worst, you'll have to freeze some and see if you can find ways to eat things you don't like. But try it for a year. If you don't like it at least you'll know and next year you can say, "OK, CSA isn't for us." But we loved loved loved it. Good luck deciding!
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#6 of 7 Old 05-15-2005, 01:08 AM
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We live in te Boston area also, and were part of a CSA last year we decided not to join this year. This decision did make me feel a little sad though.

The positives:
1. It was fun trying food I might not buy on my own. I am really looking forward to eating these delicious garlic/chives thingys. Darn can't remember the name.
2. I really felt great supporting the farm.
3. It was a treat seeing what goodies were in our bags.
4. The food was to die for fresh. amazing.
5. We got great perks. Free you pick raspberries, strawberries

The negatives:
1. The drive was toooo long - 35-40 mins each way. (with a young toddler)
2. I really missed walking to the local farmers market
3. We didn't eat all of the food and didn't do a good job preserving what we didn't eat.
4 It was too expensive $250 for half a share.
5. I got tired of kale.
6. We got a little bit of a lot of food. I look forward to picking a greater quantity of only a couple of items.

I am a little sorry we decided not to join, but I am looking forward to supporting the farm through the local farmers market.
I am not sorry I joined for one year, and we very well will do it again another time.

Children deserve the respect of puzzling it out.
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#7 of 7 Old 05-15-2005, 04:12 PM
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We're doing CSA this year for the first time.

We got a half-share.
The nearest pick-up point is a little mostly organic cafe within walking distance of our house. (We're close friends with the owners, and we'll give them any veggies that we don't like, to use in the restaurant.)

I do expect to still go to the local farmer's market, just to get more of the things we like best, which is ok, 'cause I *love* going to farmer's markets!
OTOH, none of the local organic farmers are participating in the local farmer's market yet, so I'm even happier that everything from the CSA share will be organic....

It was hard to come up with so much money all at once to spend on produce (I know it's a great value in the long run, but our budget is tight).

I had/have concerns about the "how much of what we want most will we get, versus what we'll just be trying to "use up", but.... I do want to support good farming practices, especially locally, so.... we'll see how it goes!


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