What are your experiences?
I considered it for many year and finally joined one this year. So far, so good. Mine includes the option of adding meat and/or eggs. If the first couple of weeks are any indication, I will more than get my money's worth. In my part of the northeast, the weather conditions have been favorable so far. I have been giving a lot of the food away as we just can't use up the greens fast enough.
I've always wanted to but none of the farms in my area will take food stamps. I'm still holding out hope for that though because the farmer's markets in my area take the EBT card and exchange your food stamps for coins for the market. That way I can still buy local and fresh every week even though I get food stamps. Some of the markets even give you bonus coins for buying a certain amt, like for every $5 in coins you buy, you get $1 in coins free. And when you build relationships with the farmers and they recognize you from week to week, they are likely to give you little bonuses in produce from time to time. My favorite "chemical-free" but not certified organic farmers gave us a free zucchini and cucumber this past week because I was out of money and my kids were begging for it.
I've tried a few different ones. The produce was excellent, but the waste was big, too. You really need to like all veggies to get the most out of them. I'm the only big veggie eater in the house so I ate most of them. However I don't eat salad greens or lettuce so all those are wasted. This year we just go to farmer's market and buy them. The prices are a bit higher but we don't need to buy anything we don't like, so the cost per week is the same. Besides farmer's market is very close to us compared to the drop off stations of CSA. (We're in the suburb, if we're in a major urban area drop-off locations would be closer.)
We actually go to the farm to pick up our share, which is always fun for my LO and me. We get to cut ourselves flowers too. Love it.
At home amongst the redwoods with my husband and my son, born 7/5/11 Instant CNM, just add !
I love ours! I am eating lots of stuff I don't normally but I have found that great. I do a half share which means I can go to the farmer's market still as needed. I know that it is hit and miss every year due to the weather. We have cucumbers this year where last year it was mainly greens.
It's our 3rd or 4th year with the same CSA. I'll admit, I simply love being able to take my kids there to walk the grounds and visit with the farmer & ladies who sell bread/jam there every week -- I think that's my big draw.
Aside from that, we've gotten used to the kinds of veg. we get AND they've varied it over the past few years so it is easier to use up and you're getting ingredients that go better together as well (like a bulk of tomatillos one week instead of a few for several weeks). All that helps a lot with feeling like we're getting our money's worth and being able to use up what we get. Though we did get much more unusual stuff (purslane, lambs quarters) the initial years, and we did go to the trouble of trying to get good use out of it. Now there's less of that and we're like 'hey, where's the purslane - I wanted to make purslane salsa!'.
Biggest help to making it worth it: having a good batch of recipes that either use up a lot of one ingredient OR use a variety of ingredients.
Some of our CSA fave's:
vegetable tian (usually squash/potato or possibly with tomato or eggplant)
baba ganoush (homemade is incredible & uses up a bulk of eggplant)
roasted vegetable 'salads' (good for stuff like beets/onions/squash - kids don't always bother, but it keeps well in the fridge for a week or so)
quiche or vegetable pies/galettes
chocolate zucchini cake, or zucchini chocolate chip cookies
Washing & re-packing things OR freezing them is also a big help. One of the jam ladies is always talking about the batches of grated zucchini or cooked shredded beets she freezes (for making cakes later). Yum yum - I don't always get around to that myself as much.
I enjoyed getting my CSA basket every week, but ultimately decided I'd rather dedicate $25 to spend at the farmers market each week, because I got too many vegetables I didn't like. It was fun to try new things, but really, I hate peppers and fennel and ended up tossing out a lot of stuff I wouldn't eat.
I am going to try the Bountiful Baskets though, which are similar, its a produce co-op with options to get other grocery items like bread and so forth for much cheaper than from the grocery store.
Our CSA lets us customize what we get fully each week, and delivers to us. Our lifestyle doesn't really lend itself to going to farmer's markets (I work 2 out of 3 Saturdays and there are none I know of that are less than 20 minutes away, and my husband would have to tote the toddler along) so it's CSA versus grocery store, not CSA versus farmer's market. This is the 3rd year we have done it and each year we have gotten better at stewarding it well. We can order less some weeks and more other weeks, so we order smaller amounts earlier in the season when they are so many greens, and later in the season order more and freeze things like green beans and corn to eat later. I'm not saying we haven't had waste, though. And when we've forgotten to customize the order by the deadline, we get stuff we aren't going to eat. If we couldn't customize we probably wouldn't do it. The first season they didn't yet have that feature, and towards the end of the summer we'd get 8 melons per week, which might be fine for somebody with a huge family but for a family of 2 is way too much!
This is my first year joining a CSA. There is more food for your dollar vs going to the farmer market, but it's not always veggies that we care for. It's also very simliar baskets each week-not much variety. After a few weeks you want something else to eat. If they decided to let members choose their items each week that would be better imo.
We had a similar experience of too many of certain things to use. But we will try again!
Mama to a 3 year old awesome kid, Rowan (aka Mister Boopy) and TTC another at 43!
Herbalist, Acupuncture student, Mama, Blogger!
This is my third year as part of a CSA and I love it. The first couple years I bought a "full share" and it was a lot for my and my two kids. But, I did do a lot of preserving - freezing and canning. This year I went with a "half share" because I didn't want to have to do as much preserving as it does take a lot of time. And I figured with the money I saved on the half share, I could buy any extra I need any weeks at the farmers' market. My CSA has either a pre-box option or choose-your-own option. The pre-boxed is ready when you arrive to just take it and leave. I do the choose option. I bring my own bags and they have all the produce laid out on tables with signs above noting how much of each you take. In many cases it's choosing among a group of items, like I get 6 squash and can choose the amounts among the zucchini, yellow squash and kousa. Also with doing the choose option, I can take advantage of the swap box at the end of the produce line. They have a bin where people can put back something they maybe don't really want for whatever other people have put in the swap box. By using this, I've made sure I've only brought home things we're really going to use.
My CSA also has extra add-ons you can purchase most weeks. Sometimes they offer local meat or eggs, honey, maple syrup. Some weeks there is also the option to buy some items in bulk, like a half-bushel of pickling cucumbers or tomatoes.
About halfway through my CSA season and overall I like it but I am challenged by the amount of some of the items. Such a first world problem to complain about but I am so sick of tomatoes and zucchini. My CSA doesn't have an option to customize or share/swamp with other members. I have been able to give some of the stuff away.
I will probably do it again next year but might go down to a half share.
I have been disappointed with the greens as they seemed to have suffered from being picked too soon. I was really looking forward to a weekend of salads in the beginning of the season but even within three hours of picking up the basket, the greens were limp and starting to turn.