Monday, March 18, 2013

CSAs: Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture.

  On several occasions, I've written about fresh produce, buying organic, and how to make organic food more affordable. We all are aware that fresh fruit and veggies aren't cheap.

  On the whole, quality -- 'healthy' -- foods are more expensive than prepackaged, processed foods. That's our food system right now. That's our reality.

  If we want to eat well, making a financial commitment is a necessity. You get what you pay for, and investing in our health is a smart one. Though it does seem public opinion, or the consumer, is slowly winning out. Prices are becoming more competitive. Just not as quickly as we'd like.

  But there are ways to get more out of our precious dollars. One of those ways is to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

What Are CSAs?
  Joining a CSA is essentially investing in one of your local farms. You buy a 'share' before the growing season begins. And then throughout the season, you'll receive a box of fresh, locally grown, and quite often, organic, produce provided to you on a regular basis.

  Since you're getting your fruit and vegetables directly from the farmer, often times you're getting fresher, but cheaper produce. CSAs cut out the middle man.

  All CSA programs function a little differently: cost, delivery (method and frequency), crops, length of season, and how many people one share feeds, vary from program to program. But surely there is one that can meet you and your family's needs. No matter where you live, for example even in the heart of New York City, there are CSAs available to join!

Luscher Farms in Lake Oswego provides a CSA in my hometown. has even more information about CSAs, and can help you locate a program near you. 

Expand Your Horizons
  Depending on where you live, crops will vary from place to place. For the most part, you'll get the staple foods, produce you're familiar with. But chances are you’ll also get some veggies you haven’t tried before. Week in and week out, your box of produce will be a surprise of sorts. You never know exactly what you're going to get! Don't worry however, as many programs include recipes to help you cook up the harvest.

  Some CSAs allow for a more hands-on experience. You can join a CSA that allows volunteers to help at the farm. If you have the time and interest, volunteering allows for a little appreciation and investment of a different kind! And I'm sure you'll learn a little something too.

Potential Draw Backs 
  Depending on your family's needs, for example, what you like to eat, and how much produce you go through on a weekly basis, you may or may not have to supplement extra produce with trips to the grocery store. I think it's best to expect that you will not get all of your produce needs taken care of with a share at a CSA. But it's not like you don't make frequent trips to the store anyway!

Map of potential CSAs in the US.
  The main draw back of a CSA is that you have to purchase your shares upfront (Shares usually cost between $400 and $600. Though some CSAs allow you to purchase 1/2 shares.). So at the time, it may not seem like it's a cost-effective way to get your fresh produce.

  (If the price sounds like something you can't do upfront, check with the CSA you're interested in, they may have a solution.)

  The money upfront is a necessity for the farm. CSA programs help farmers at the beginning of the season, when it's needed most, and sees them through the rest of the growing season.

  Unless you're a master budgeteer, it's difficult to estimate just how much you spend on produce on a weekly or monthly basis. If joining a CSA sounds like a good option for you and your family, check a local program out!

  Spring has already snuck up on us way too fast (though who's complaining?), and summer will be here before we know it. The time is now to start exploring seasonal CSAs to join! Have you ever joined a CSA? What was your experience like?

  Below you'll find links to CSA tips, and good questions to pose to the CSA you are thinking about joining. Let me know your thoughts and experiences!
The Farm Bill
Making Organics More Affordable
Supermarket Sweep
Which is Healthier, Organic or Conventional Produce?
Clean 15/Dirty Dozen Rundown
Clean Produce: Pesticide Removal


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