CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pre-purchase a share in a farmer’s crop and you enjoy their harvest one week at a time for the season. The nice thing about this is you don’t have to worry about finding the best deal on carrots or tomatoes at the farmer’s market because you have already spent your money. With a CSA one shares the bounty as well as the farmer’s losses.
CSAs are hugely popular in our area. One could check out the Land Stewardship Project and find over 60 local farms offering a CSA membership. What’s not to love? Around 15 pounds of fresh, organic veggies! An opportunity to find new vegetables to love, like turnips and mustard greens. Saving time in the produce section at the grocery store.
So, what was wrong with our CSA experience?
- Most weeks weren’t worth the $31 for our box of veggies. Maybe this was a year of loss, but I kept expecting our box to be filled to the brim during the peak season, but our box remained light each week.
- We thought a CSA membership would save us money at the grocery store, but we found ourselves needing to go just as often in order to pick up ingredients to accompany our vegetables.
- We didn’t know beforehand what was going to be in our box, so I couldn’t plan out our meals for the week.
- Our farm grew “interesting heirloom varieties,” and they were interesting. Everything was fun to try once, like the Asian flat-leaf spinach. After trying it once, I found I didn’t care for it much, and this vegetable appeared in our box an additional 8 times! We also got 4 bags of edamame…which I wont eat nor serve to my family.
- Things I enjoyed appeared in our box only twice, while things like cilantro appeared 7 or 8 times. Don’t get me wrong, I love cilantro, but I have a hard time using an entire bunch, let alone 8!
- Oftentimes the quality of our vegetables was questionable. One week we had wilting basil, and last week my onions were moldy.
- I still had to drive to pick up my CSA box.
- We never had a chance to meet with our farmers and connect with the hands that grow our food!
So, what will we do next summer?
- Take our $31 to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market and purchase far more with our money. The produce at the farmer’s markets is typically larger and better looking. I don’t think they could get away with selling brown basil or moldy onions.
- Purchase a share from a larger, more reputable, more expensive farm such as Harmony Valley. Larger farms usually run for a longer season and offer the option to pick up every other week.
All in all we’re so glad we took the opportunity to become CSA members. We loved that each week our fridge and bellies were filled with nourishing food, and that we had a vital role in supporting a local farm.