Dive Into a CSA

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February 19, 2009 at 10:39 am

Michael Morowitz

We recently published our 2009 Guide to Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. These programs allow you to pre-buy a subscription to a local farm’s harvest.

I’ve spoken to many people who are interested in CSAs but are scared off by the idea of a subscription. The word “subscription” can conjure up ideas of “commitment”. A commitment is an easy thing to say no to. People want to test the waters, but a commitment feels like you’re diving right in.

It’s true, compared to buying a couple tomatoes every once in a while at a farmer’s market, a CSA subscription is a commitment. If an irregular trip to the market is dipping your toe in the water, a CSA subscription is a dive into the deep end.

I’m here to tell you that the water’s fine. Jump in.

I shared most of the benefits in our CSA guide, but what I want to do here is address some of the fears that keep people from taking advantage of regular deliveries of fresh, local produce.

I can’t cook
If you can turn on your oven you can cook vegetables. Almost every vegetable in the world can be cut up, tossed with olive oil and salt & pepper, and roasted at 400 degrees until golden brown. All you have to do is check on them every 10 minutes or so. Plenty of other stuff you get in a CSA can (and should) be eaten raw: tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, fruits.

I live alone (or in a small household
Many CSAs offer half-shares which are suitable for two people. If you live alone, find a friend or a neighbor to split the share with you.

I’m afraid of getting a bushel full of the same veggie.
Most CSAs make a commitment to variety (some deliver from a consortium of different farms). Many will publish their growing charts on their website along with a general idea of what you can expect to find in your box.

Isn’t it expensive?
Simply put, no. Check out my “Anatomy of a CSA” to see what I got for my weekly cost of about $35. A similar haul of fresh organic produce would have probably cost 50% more at a supermarket. Plus, you’re paying the people who grow it and drive it to you rather than helping finance a large supply-chain and marketing budget.

My family is full of picky eaters.
Picky eating is probably the hardest problem to combat, but I believe it can be tackled head-on with a little kitchen creativity. Soups are an easy way to get some veggies into someone who might not normally eat them. And you’re likely to stumble across something that everyone finds delicious.

One of the things that I like most about my CSA subscription, beyond the food itself, is that much of my shopping is done for me. All I really need to do is supplement with a few things from the farmer’s market (I don’t always get everything that I want in my box), some bread (which I’m now baking myself), dairy (which is easy), a little meat (which I’ll be getting from Cedar Valley Sustainable this year), and pantry items (Rob covers them nicely here). I have no use for big-chain supermarkets anymore, and food shopping has become a much more enjoyable experience. I always know that I’ll be well-stocked with plenty of in-season, locally-grown produce.

After I took the dive into becoming a CSA subscriber, I can’t see myself turning back. I’m constantly aware of the benefits and the costs or problems are negligible. I hope you’ll check out our 2009 CSA Guide and my Anatomy of a CSA and take the plunge this year.

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One Comment

  1. pdaane says:

    Michael,

    Based on your articles and detailed observations*, I subscribed to a full share + egg share from Home Grown Wisconsin today. I just hope my “more-vegetarian-than-I” girlfriend and tenants can take up the slack of all the organic produce. Thanks for the information.

    *Well, I am also reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, which said GF gave to me for Christmas.

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