5 Reasons Why I Subscribe to my CSA in October

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Photo by Shane Folkertsma

CSA  (Community Supported Agriculture) is a system where you pay up front for a “share” of the next season’s crops, and then during the growing season you receive a box or bags of vegetables each week.

Even though frost is here, the last CSA pickup is this week, and we won’t be getting more vegetables until 7 months from now, I’m putting in my deposit today. Why?

1. Pay Over Time

Even though it’s a good deal once you calculate what you’re getting for your money, most CSAs cost $400+ per share. That can seem like a large chunk of change to pay all at once–even if you are splitting the share with another family.  My CSA (Trillium Haven) is offering an installment plan this year; others will let you put down your deposit and then pay as you wish as long as it’s paid by a specified time (usually in late winter/early spring).  Splitting up the total into smaller payments makes it easier to swallow the total cost.

2. To Make Sure I Get A Spot

CSAs are growing in popularity. I’ve been a member of various CSAs since 2005, and each one “sold out” of available shares by March. The particular CSA I’m a member of now is offering shares to existing members before they open to the general public. I’m taking advantage of this, because the owner mentioned that she is getting at least three inquiries per week from new potential members. The year before last I waited too long and missed out. I thought I would perhaps just visit the farmer’s market, but I found that I didn’t eat nearly as many vegetables that summer.

3. Commitment to Eating Healthfully

There’s something about getting a bag of vegetables that you already paid for that motivates you to eat them. After a summer of eating fresh produce, your tastes change. I find myself noticing in restaurants when vegetables are not fresh or in season, or when they’re not even on the menu. By putting a deposit down now, I feel more motivated to keep up my healthy eating habits over the winter. It’s kind of like making a myself a promise to do the best I can while it’s not as plentiful, because in a few months we will once again be overflowing with greens.

4. Sense of Community

On one hand, it’s kind of a relief knowing that this is the last week I’ll have to remember to clean out the refrigerator the night before, pack my reusable bags in the morning, rush home after work to stand in the line to pick up the vegetables, come home and fit them in the refrigerator, and plan the week’s menus to use them all up. On the other hand, I’ll definitely miss it. I’ll miss the email of the week letting me know what we’ll be getting, explaining any uncommon vegetables like romanesca or black winter radishes. I’ll miss seeing the other members at pickup and at the cooking classes, the co-owner Anja standing there directing us to the U pick items. By handing my check to Anja, I feel like I’m saying “hey, thanks for being my farmer.”

5. Hope for Spring

When the frost arrives, you know that winter is coming. It won’t be long until you’re shoveling snow (at least here in Michigan) and braving subzero wind chills. The only local vegetables available will be root crops and apples. There’s always the grocery store, but somehow stuff that’s picked unripe and shipped for miles just isn’t as appealing as fresh produce picked at its peak. And you know that when you’ve eaten up all the vegetables that you remembered to freeze or can, and have had your fill of chili, soups, and stews, that the spring thaw will come. By subscribing to next year’s CSA, I’m making a leap of faith.

 

How about you, are you thinking about joining a CSA next year, or renewing a current share? Why? Post your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

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3 Responses to “5 Reasons Why I Subscribe to my CSA in October”

  1. Alisha A Says:

    Great post!

    I have not belonged to a CSA before because I have so many local produce stands and farmers markets on my way home, but I recently watched a documentary (Good Food, its about local producers in the PNW) that made some great points about CSAs I hadn’t thought of before, namely that it allows farmers some economic stability and to plan their yields better.

  2. Erin Says:

    You hit the nail right on the head, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m just finishing my third year of doing a CSA, and don’t think I could ever go back. My blog is a little over a year old, and I went from 5 recipes in my blog using my CSA veggies when I began blogging late last summer, to now 24 recipes tagged CSA. It has changed the way I cook, and they way I think about food entirely. I’m going to tweet your blog post to share it with my foodie friends, because you hit every good point. 🙂

  3. Mary Says:

    This was the first year I belonged to a CSA. To be honest, until relatively recently, I never knew there was such a thing. I did have a growing knowledge that my typical North American lifestyle and eating habits of buying whatever produce struck my whim at whatever time of year were bad for the environment in terms of pesticides, the amounts of fossil fuels burned to bring me vegetables from California (I’m in PA), and plastic/cardboard packaging; bad for optimal nutrition; and bad for traditional family farmers as opposed to huge factory farms. Maybe I should add bad for my soul in the sense of not feeling connected to the farmers as human beings and to the earth.

    Around the new year, I collected info on local CSAs, and was discouraged because none of them seemed to have the single person in mind (i.e., pretty much like the rest of the world) in terms of share quantity, and because their hours meant that I’d not have time to drive to the farm before they closed. By chance, when checking out at a grocery store, the bulletin board had a flier for Plowshare Produce, saying the informational meeting would be at the local Mennonite church. Basically, I was sold right then because the farmers were Mennonite, and at the info meeting, I learned that not only did their pickup time extend longer than the CSAs I’d investigated, but the location was right in town; I didn’t have to drive to the farm. This summer, they were officially certified organic.

    I got a half share, which is picked up every other week as opposed to a full share. Again, as a single person, it’s been a challenge to use everything before it spoils and before the next installment, and I feel awful for having to throw away items that spoiled. (Basically, I’m a bad consumer whatever I do!) Nevertheless, I got to know and like my farmers–even spent one summer Sat. working on the farm, I’m committed to the idea, and I loved the freshness and flavor of the veggies, so I’m going to give it another whirl and make my deposit for 2010 at my next pickup, the last till spring, hoping I’ll be a better person and use everything up next year. (I don’t know what I’ll eat to ease my environmental conscience between Nov. and June.)


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