Are you wondering the pros and cons of a CSA? This post will share my experience with a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) Program during the Summer/Fall of 2021 and 2022, and why I believe CSAs are an excellent way to support your local farmers and get delicious, fresh produce!
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The Pros and Cons of a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture)
- The Pros and Cons of a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture)
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, where typically a group of local farms and farmers in a region offer shares of their crops to the public. It eliminates the middle man of a grocery store or supermarket by allowing people to buy directly from the farmers themselves. This is usually done through a small organization that runs the CSA and offers pick-up locations at public parks, schools, gyms, or neighborhoods.
By joining a CSA, you're getting your food right from the source, supporting your local farmers and businesses, and getting fresh, delicious produce right at the perfect and optimal time. CSA Seasons vary depending on where you live and what's growing.
Options for CSA shares include fruits and vegetables, of course, but you can also find eggs, milk, meat, flowers, pasta, bread, and more.
Why We Decided to Join a CSA
A few of our friends are members of a CSA, and over the last few years, I was impressed by the fruits and veggies they'd bring to our gettogethers. Things like yellow fleshed watermelon, homemade pickles from pickling cucumbers, and fresh blueberries for muffins and pies. With my love of gardening but no space to grow anything outside, a desire to support local businesses, and this food blog, I decided it was time to try a CSA once and for all.
Our CSA: Farm Direct Co-Op
Our CSA is Farm Direct Co Op. It is a women-owned organization founded in 1993 on the North Shore of Boston, Massachusetts. It's such a welcoming community of people, and they focus on giving back to the community, which is another reason I love supporting them. If food is not picked up, it's offered to other members first, and then anything remaining is donated to local families in need. Volunteering with the CSA is a requirement for becoming a member, which I didn't mind at all.
The CSA Season
Since we live in New England, the growing season here is much shorter than in other areas and regions of the US, but our CSA still offers small shares in winter and spring with what they have grown. The main season runs from June through October (21 weeks). For the 2021 season, we signed up for 3 shares - a small fruit share, a small vegetable share, and a fresh flower share. In 2022, we decided to not do the flowers again, and just opted for small fruit and vegetable shares.
What's in a CSA Share?
During the main season, shares will vary as the seasons change. The photos above show shares from June, August, and September over the last two years. Your shares will depend on the weather and what the farmers were able to distribute that week. The shares started smaller and got larger as the season went on, with the most being in August/early September, before reducing in size as it got colder into October.
We also had the option to decide if we wanted a large or small share. This will depend on your CSA. Generally, we felt the amount in every share was a solid amount and we would always use it up!
Here's another example of what our shares might look like. These were from September.
Meals We Enjoyed From the CSA
I had so much fun this summer creating meals with our CSA share items! Here's a quick preview of some of the delicious things I made.
Gluten-Free Egg Cups with Mini Red Bell Peppers
Gluten-Free Peach Pie
Gluten-Free Homemade Pickles
Gluten-Free Apple Cinnamon Muffins
The Pros of a CSA
There are both pros and cons of a CSA. But my number one pro is definitely access to the freshest produce out there! There's no comparison to what you buy in the grocery store. Everything we've had in our CSA share has been phenomenal. So a big pro is obviously the delicious food and what you can make with it.
Another pro is the variety of fruits and vegetables you can receive. Dylan and I ended up trying things we never would have purchased at the grocery store! We tried brussel sprout tops, bok choi, Swiss chard, and beets, which aren't items I'd normally cook. The CSA can open your eyes to new foods and nutritious fruits and vegetables not previously on your radar.
Finally, you are supporting local people in your neighborhood. You get food right from the farmers themselves and help them stay open and continue growing food. Additionally, you're involving yourself in your community. I genuinely enjoyed volunteering with my CSA. I appreciate their values and how they help other families in need.
The Cons of a CSA
Like anything, if there are pros, there are also cons to a CSA. And while a CSA is an awesome opportunity to support your local agriculture and bring organic, delicious fruit and veg into your home, there are also some things to consider before joining one.
First, the price. If you are on a budget, a CSA is going to cost a little more than buying your produce at the grocery store. This is a cost you have to weigh yourself and what works for your family. Dylan and I like to be conscious consumers whenever possible, so we join our CSA for our fruits and vegetables, and shop for gluten-free meat, dry goods, and other grocery items at our local supermarket. It works for our budget, but it may not work for yours. It costs us $25 a week for our small fruit and vegetable shares.
The other con to consider is meal planning. You're not sure what you're going to get in the share until typically the day before, so it's a bit different than just shopping at the supermarket and grabbing anything you want. Dylan and I would plan our meals weekly after knowing what to expect in this week's share. For items that needed to be used up quickly, like raspberries or lettuce, those meals would be earlier in the week. For items that could last longer, like potatoes or carrots, those would be later in the week.
Finally, the con I think can be the biggest challenge for some people is avoiding waste. Since the produce you are receiving is so fresh, it won't last as long and needs to be eaten quickly. And that means if you aren't planning your meals out carefully, it could go to waste. While this only happened to us once or twice during the season, it's something to be mindful of. Additionally, we compost our food scraps with Black Earth Compost, so when it did happen, I just composted the items, knowing they would be turned back into compost to grow more food.
Are we joining again in 2023?
You bet! Dylan and I thoroughly enjoyed last year and this year's CSA season, all of the delicious fruits and vegetables, along with helping support our local community. We're definitely signing up again for small fruit and vegetable shares for the 2023 season. I can't wait to see what fruits and veggies are in store for us! Be sure you're following me on Instagram for the details - I post our weekly shares to my stories during the season.
How do I join a CSA?
If you're interested in joining a local CSA, research the farms in your area. If you have a place you like to go to, such as a farm stand, or even a farm that offers pick your own options in the summer, they might have one. If not, you can check Local Harvest for more information, or ask around at your local school, library, or community center.
Final Thoughts on Pros and Cons of a CSA's
What do you think are the pros and cons of a CSA?
Would you consider joining a CSA or are you already a member?
Tell me about your experience in the comments!