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.