Benefits and Challenges of Joining a CSA

Photo credit: xandert from morguefile.com

Guest Post by Mary of Look In Your House:

As winter melts, the days lengthen, and the daffodils bloom, my mind always turns to one thing.

Food.

Spring and summer mean plentiful fresh produce. If you’re like me and have just made peace with the reality that you are not a gardener (though you’d really, really like to believe otherwise—but that’s a topic for another post), becoming a CSA customer may be a good thing for you and your family.

CSAs (or community supported agriculture) are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons, I believe. The recent attention to healthier eating and greener living has prompted consumers to find food sources other than the big box stores and large grocery chains. CSA customers consistently report supporting the efforts of the local farmer and enjoying fresh, trustworthy food as key benefits to getting produce through a CSA.

Our family has been a CSA customer for three seasons now. We have loved many aspects of the arrangement, yet we’ve also noted some inevitable drawbacks. CSAs may not be for every family; they are not a panacea for all that ails traditional American produce consumption. But they do provide a welcome alternative to the status quo.

Benefits of being a CSA customer:

  • Weekly (or bi-weekly, depending upon the program and what you choose) baskets of fresh produce that you didn’t have to seed, weed, water, pick, shop for, or bag. Just rinse and eat!
  • Variety of fruits, veggies, and herbs, many you’ve probably not tried before. I discovered the deliciousness of lemon basil tea as a result of our CSA.
  • Supporting your local farmer, his or her family, and the local economy. I’d much rather give my money to our CSA owner, “Farmer Bud,” as my kids call him, than to Sam Walton’s empire.
  • Creating new relationships because you’re connected now through the earth’s bounty. There’s just something about food that brings people together. We have made good friends with our CSA folk, who were just strangers a few years before.

Challenges:

  • Cash flow is often somewhat difficult. Depending on the CSA, a significant amount of money is required up front or in increments during the season. It’s not like spending ten bucks at the grocery store on a weekly basis, and it probably does come out a little bit higher than grocery store prices.
  • You’ll get a variety of food alright! And if you’re a picky eater then you may find yourself throwing away those extra veggies. And even if you’re not a picky eater, you may just get tired of grilled zucchini the fourth night in a row. It can be challenging to come up with new ways to eat all of the “out of the ordinary” items you receive.
  • You assume the risk of planting, growth, and harvest with the farmer. That’s part of the CSA partnership. You invest in the farm but you must also accept that crops are at the risk of drought, flood, pests, and so on. Our CSA lost several crops last year during the freak Nashville flood. And so, I had to buy tomatoes elsewhere last summer.

To find a CSA in your area, check out Local Harvest.

Have you used a CSA to get local fruits and vegetables?  Do you have any additional benefits or challenges that you experienced?

Look in Your House

Mary Bernard is a writer, editor, and social media consultant living in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and three children. Mary blogs at LookInYourHouse.com where she encourages women to find purpose and meaning among life’s ordinary things. Each Friday, she hosts a podcast featuring successful women in creative and business pursuits.

 

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Comments

  1. JanaC2 says

    We participated in a CSA several years ago with mixed reviews. We LOVED getting to know the farmers and the quality of the produce, but it was draining to create meal plans for a bag of new foods in the middle of the week (our pick up was on Wed night). I’d spend hours creating a meal plan to incorporate the veggies… several years, one more child and one less job later I’d definitely try again but the stress of my tight grocery bill budgeting and the pressure of having to use every last veggie (in a meal everyone will eat!) is too much this year… maybe next year?!

  2. Brittany says

    Is there any way to find reviews on the local CSA options? Or contact others who have used them? You’re right, a CSA is a big up front financial commitment! I think this year I’ll do the Farmer’s Market thing and track my produce costs. That way I can compare. I wonder if I’ll be surprised by how much we actually end up spending (2 adults). Thanks for this very informative post!

  3. says

    Thanks for this balanced article! For my family, one advantage is that we eat more vegetables overall (a larger portion of our diet is vegs) than at times of year without that weekly inundation. Having to use the vegs before they go bad keeps us from falling back on pasta and rice so much. It also helps us resist going out to eat!

    To anyone in the Pittsburgh, PA, area, I highly recommend <a href="http://www.kretschmannfarm.com/Kretschmann Farm! This will be our 11th year with them. Here are some details of our experiences.
    ‘Becca recently posted..7 Things You Oughta Be Able to Do at Your Age

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