7 Reasons to Join a CSA {Community Supported Agriculture}

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and has become more and more popular in the United States within the last 25 years.  You’re sure to have one in your community—you can click here to see. 

I seriously don’t know the slightest about planting or growing food.  If you’re one of those who can maintain your own strawberry﹘um﹘tree? . . . or potato﹘er﹘bush? then I have mad respect for your skills.  For people with a black thumb like me, a CSA is the better way to go.  This summer will be my family’s fourth year participating in one and we absolutely love it.  

 

How it Works:

This process allows you to purchase a “share” of organic seasonal fruits and veggies straight from a local farmer–eliminating a “middleman.”  You can select and pay for {in advance} the season in which you wish to participate so you’re not locked in year-round.  My family only buys a half share in the summer.  Throughout the season, you usually have the option to buy additional individual items such as eggs, honey, jams, flowers, or any surplus of produce.

Shareholders receive their goods on a regular basis.  It could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on your organizer.  Some CSAs deliver directly to you, to a particular central location for all shareholders to pick up, or require you to pick it up from them.  

I was living in cloud of ignorance and had never even heard of a CSA before I read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 {a book that totally changed my life, btw}.  I decided to hop on the CSA train and here’s 7 reasons why my family continues to use it each summer, and why you should start:

 

#1 – WE ARE SUPPORTING A LOCAL FARMER

Remember that ad during the Super Bowl a few years ago?  The one that didn’t leave a dry eye in the room?  So God Made a Farmer.

Gah.

Here I am.  All I do is teach teenagers about nonessential information like dangling participles while farmers are out doing back breaking work for 90+ hours/week so we can like . . . eat and stuff.

Seriously.  

God. Bless. All. The. Farmers.

Amen.

When you participate in a CSA, your money goes directly to the farmer.  You also pay up front, so this helps the farmers be more financially secure.  The downside for you is that they could have a poor crop for whatever reason and you could be out some of that money.

But since we’ve already established that farmers are the worthy human beings, I’m willing to take the chance to give them support.

 

#2 –  IT’S ORGANIC + FRESH

Most farmers who participate in CSA’s grow their produce organically.  Our CSA farmer writes:

We have been providing wholesome foods to our customers using chemical-free, biologically sound methods for over 35 years. We follow organic and sustainable principles in all aspects of the farm.”

I love it.

I’m also about to sound like an ignorant city girl . . . but that’s what I am, K?  Before going all CSA, I really didn’t pay attention to the fact that fruits and vegetables had certain seasons because my grocery store ALWAYS has strawberries, and squash, and cantaloupe, and tomatoes {and you KNOW I wasn’t growing any myself}.  If I want to sink my teeth into a juicy nectarine in the dead of winter, HyVee can make that possible.

When you buy produce that is out of season, most likely it has been imported from somewhere hundreds of miles away, picked before it was ripe, and spent several days traveling on a truck.  The quality, nutrition, and freshness are now significantly reduced. More on this in #4.

Not only do CSAs give you what is in season, there’s a good chance it was harvested within hours of you picking it up from your farmer.

Have you ever eaten something so fresh?

Nothing compares.

 

#3 – IT’S CHEAPER

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Example of how much comes in half a share.

Organic food can be expensive, but using a CSA definitely reduces the cost.  My family buys a half share during the summer, which runs the entire months of June-August.  A half share {which is more than enough for my family of four} costs $325 {plus tax}.  Divide that by 14 weeks and the cost is only $25/week.  That price is hard to beat at a grocery store.  If that price is a bit steep for you, some CSAs  let you work or give a discount if you pick it up.

The picture on the right shows everything we received from one of our summer half shares.  Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less.  This one included cabbage, red potatoes, an onion, a green pepper, smaller onions, rainbow chard, kale, kohlrabi, and a pepper.

#4 – FEWER EMISSIONS
As mentioned in my second point, when food is purchased at a grocery store, there is a good chance it is not local.  In fact, there’s a really good chance it has traveled hundreds . . . even thousands of miles!  No joke.

According to CUESA {Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture} all the food on your dinner plate traveled an average of 1,500 miles!!!

Say what?  

For example, here’s a breakdown showing the average of how far some foods travel to get to a terminal market {more popular in large cities} vs. a farmer’s market:

Produce Terminal Market Farmer’s Market
Apples 1,500 miles 105 miles
Tomatoes 1,369 miles 117 miles
Grapes 2,143 miles 151 miles
Beans 766 miles 101 miles
Peaches 1,674 miles 184 miles
Winter Squash 781 miles 98 miles
Greens 889 miles 99 miles
Lettuce 2,055 miles 102 miles

Um . . . that’s a major difference.  Buying some produce from the grocery store could not only means it’s not fresh, but it takes a significant amount of travel time﹘sending harmful emissions in the air and causing an even bigger carbon footprint on this precious earth.  

My farmer only lives about 50 miles from me.  He comes up to my hometown every Wednesday to sell produce and other goods at a farmer’s market, which is only about 10 miles from my home.  

I can sleep easy with those numbers.  

To read up on more information regarding the severity of buying produce long distance, click here.  

P.S.—I realize that some grocery stores {like my beloved Dillons} do attempt to purchase some of their produce locally.  I’m speaking in general terms here. 

 

#5 – IT HELPS KEEP YOU ON A MEAL PLAN

When you participate in a CSA, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have a lot of produce around your house that will rot soon.  If you don’t incorporate it, all into your meals each week, then you’re sadly wasting your money {which is not an option for my frugal self!} We plan our meals around our food each week, which actually ends up saving us money.

When you don’t have a meal plan, you tend to aimlessly wander around a grocery store, throw whatever looks good into your cart, and then end up with more than you need {and most likely food that goes bad if you never planned to incorporate it}.

While you’re at the mercy of whatever is in season and whatever your farmer chooses to grow, it is actually kind of nice giving up that control and letting your meals for the week be based on that instead of whatever you choose.  It’s comfortingly structured.

 

#6 – WE GET TO TRY NEW FOOD

This may be one of my favorite reasons.  As I mentioned in #5, you’re at the mercy of whatever food happens to be in your CSA share each week.  It’s not always food you would normally buy.  In fact, it’s not always food you’ve even heard of before!

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Kohlrabi

Take kohlrabi for example.  

What the heck even is that?  

This little gem {which turned out to be a “cousin” to the turnup} showed up in our first few shares.  We didn’t even know how to pronounce it, let alone know how to cook it.  

My husband ended up throwing it on the grill with some butter, salt, and garlic, and it was delicious.  Now kohlrabi is honestly one of our favorite veggies we receive all season.

Using a CSA forces you to get creative, look up a lot of recipes, and stretch yourself.  We’ve created so many new dishes we would have never encountered before.  It’s a fun experience for our family.

 

#7 – RELATIONSHIPS

Depending on how your CSA is set up, you will have a chance to meet new people.  As I mentioned in #4, our farmer brings our shares to a local farmer’s market every Wednesday and we pick up our food from him.

Before this model, everyone who had a share took turns driving to the farm and bringing it back to our hometown.  We would meet at a local park every Saturday between 1:30 and 2:00 PM to pick up our food.  You got to meet other people and swap recipe ideas between CSA vets and newbies.

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My daughter loving on a farm kitty.

Our kids loved it when it was our turn to drive to the farm to pick up the food.  We are a suburban family with zero pets {I know . . . }, so seeing such things as litters of kittens running around and a turkey coop is better than going to the zoo.  Our farmers always offer a tour and some extra produce to the picker-upper as well.  It’s a unique relationship that would never be developed otherwise.  

 

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My kids checking out the baby turkeys on the farm.

If you’re in the northeast Kansas area and are interested in participating, please check out our CSA provider: Shepherd’s Valley

If you decide to use our CSA provider, please tell them I referred you. 🙂  

Have questions?  Let me know!

Here’s to fresh eating in the future.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

 

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