When I tell people that I belong to a “CSA” I have learned over time just to refer to it as a “crop share” since people will typically know what I mean. If I say “Oh, I belong to a Community Supported Agriculture program”, I get plenty of confused looks or people thinking I am some crazy hippie!
In reality though, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are a great way to get involved in buying fresh, local, and seasonal produce. Doing so provides tremendous support to farmers who want to weed out the middle man and provide high quality, seasonal produce directly to the consumer at a reasonable price.
The general way a Community Supported Agriculture program works is the farm will allow community members to purchase a certain number of shares for a season’s crops. The farmer will then divide the produce between the shareholders on each designated pick up date throughout the growing season. In turn, the money provided up front allows the farmer to spend time focusing on the crops. Read More
Otherwise, time is wasted trying to generate business or sitting around at a farmer’s market that may require a great deal of travel time and more opportunity for crops to be damaged. Share holders pay a designated fee before the growing season begins, generally in late winter/early spring. This early income helps fund the crops for the growing season including expenses to buy seeds, repair equipment, make upgrades, etc.
By participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program you are supporting a local business owner (the farmer) and keeping more of your money within your community. Rather than going to a huge chain grocery store to get your produce and buying bell peppers from “Mexico” (which obviously is a massive country and you don’t know how or where in Mexico the farmer grew the peppers), you can purchase local, sustainable, and seasonal produce right in your backyard! Sure, you aren’t going to get strawberries from a winter CSA or potatoes from a summer CSA, but the experience of joining a CSA and knowing you are receiving fresh, high quality produce from a farm nearby is unparalleled.
Another significant advantage of joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is that you are purchasing local produce. This means you are not participating in harming the environment by shipping food thousands of miles, which creates a huge carbon footprint. Read More
Think about how much gas it takes for a semi truck or even an airplane full of exotic fruit (like dragon fruit, pictured above) to travel into the United States from Thailand. Even just transporting out of season vegetables across the United States from California to New York causes a great deal of harm to the environment. The pollution from produce traveling that far is extensive, let alone the preservatives you are ingesting that companies add to the produce in order for it to survive the long journey! I understand wanting berries in the winter once in a while (because they are delicious and nutritious!), but people are still buying produce from grocery stores during the summer that could be easily obtained simply by participating in a CSA with higher quality, local produce!
I joined a CSA 3 years ago and enjoy being a part of such a great community supported program! I recently switched the CSA I participate in simply due to the location of pick up, but not because of dissatisfaction with the previous farm or their produce. There are definite perks and downfalls to joining a CSA, but I would definitely recommend looking into options in your area and asking yourself a few questions before making the decision. I understand that a CSA may not be for everyone or may not even be available to everyone, but definitely consider doing your research! Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before choosing or joining a CSA.
Can I afford to pay for my share upfront?
Most CSAs require you to pay for your share ahead of time, which can range anywhere from $250-$650. Some might offer the option of paying in two installments, but you are generally charged a little more for this. The prices may vary on your location, but this is generally the range of pricing.
Also, I have seen many CSAs offer different size shares such as “individual”, “small”, or “large/family”, which obviously each cost a different amount. If you are unsure about how much you will use, I would play it safe and go for the smaller option. I find it so helpful that these options are offered because I made the mistake of getting a large share one year thinking I would just start eating only what came in the crop share (which did not happen by the way!)
Do I even like veggies enough to have an abundance of them and am I willing to take the time to prepare/cook with them?
If you are using this as a way to eat more fresh, local vegetables, love all sorts of veggies, and are willing to cook with them several nights a week, then yes, go for it! Read More
If you or your family are iffy about vegetables and picky about which ones you will eat, I would suggest first looking on the farm’s website at a sample of what a typical share looks like or contacting the farm directly. If they grow vegetables that you are not fond of, I would not suggest investing or at least get an individual or small share first if you are the one that loves vegetables and your family or kids despise them! A CSA is a big commitment, so make sure you can consume the amount of produce you will be receiving!
Will I be able to pick up my share at the scheduled dates/times?
If you are a busy mom taking kids to activities after school every day or stuck at work until 7pm or later, I would seriously look into whether you will have time to pick up your share each week. Read More
Most farms offer specific dates and times you are able to pick up your produce, but the good thing is, many offer pick up sites in local communities so you don’t have to travel all the way out to the farm if it is not nearby. This is definitely one of the reasons why I switched my CSA. The first CSA required you to pick up at the farm, which was a good 40 minutes from my house. The CSA I participate in now offers a pick up site 20 minutes from my house even though the farm is over an hour away for me. Be sure to ask around and do your research online before deciding on a CSA since not all farms allow offsite pick ups and the farm may be a good distance from where you live.
Does the farm use sustainable, organic growing practices?
This is a VITAL aspect to research about the CSAs you are considering. Many CSA farms are small (compared to corporate or commercially run farms) and becoming certified organic is quite pricey! Therefore, some of these small, local farms may be utilizing entirely organic and sustainable growing practices, yet are not certified organic. Read More
If it is not specified on the website or if the CSA does not have a website, your best bet is to contact the farm directly and ask important questions about their farming practices. For example, what type of seeds they use, are pesticides and/or herbicides used, how sustainable is the farm, are they certified organic or utilize organic farming practices, etc.
I asked these specific questions to my previous CSA farm and the answer was that they follow all the regulations to be certified organic, but have not paid to get the certification due to the costly nature of the process. Their reasoning was that they would like to keep the share prices affordable for the community and would rather focus on the farm than going through the lengthy process of becoming certified organic. It is also important that if the claim is made that they follow organic standards, you are allowed to visit the farm and see for yourself. Anyone can claim organic practices are followed, but if they are unwilling to allow you to see for yourself, that should be an immediate red flag!
Pros of a CSA:
- Fresh, local, seasonal, produce
- Supporting your local community
- Knowing exactly where your produce is coming from
- Environmentally friendly due to lack of transporting produce thousands of miles
- Typically produce is grown with organic practices even if farmer cannot afford to be officially certified organic
- Cost effective over time
- Yes, the upfront cost is a lot, but over an entire growing season you will save so much!
- I broke down my cost over the entire growing season and it was around $25 per week for an abundance of fresh, local, organic produce!
- Variety of unique produce
- I can’t speak for every CSA, but I have tried so many new veggies through my CSA! For example, celery root, kohlrabi, Japanese radishes, various types of peppers and beans, unique greens, etc
Cons of a CSA:
- Large sum of money up front (some do offer option to pay in two installments though)
- If you chose the wrong size share, you may waste a lot of produce (BUT you could always share with friends/family)
- Big commitment (an entire growing season) especially if you are a busy person due to specific pick up dates/times
- You share the risk with the farmer of a poor growing season
- If the crop yield is low, the farmer is not obligated to provide a certain amount of produce, only what is able to be harvested
- On the other hand, if it is a profitable growing season, you will get more produce. That’s the risk!
- Produce is limited to what is growing during that time of year
- Meaning no strawberries, peppers, or corn in winter and no beets, potatoes, or cabbage in summer
- Some produce does overlap though and farmers may be able to store items for later pickups
Here is the link for the CSA that I belong to. I highly recommend joining if you are in the Buffalo area!
Disclaimer: The information on this website is based upon my research and personal experiences. Use of Young Living Essential Oils and other products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am not a doctor or healthcare professional.