This weekend we got a “valu-pack” of coupons. You know those envelopes of coupons and menus that local restaurants and vendors mail to your house? I typically take a quick look and then
toss recycle all the offers that we won’t use (cleaning services, pet sitters, day cares etc.). But this weekend, I found a flyer from a local farm that peaked my interest. They offered several coupons to use on purchases at their local farmer’s market (the one bf and I attended this summer) and also advertised a CSA program.
If you’re not familiar (I wasn’t until a couple of years go), CSA stands for Community-Support Agriculture. According to Local Harvest, Here’s how it works, “A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.” Of course there’s some risk involved, if there’s a horrible growing season or some sort of natural disaster, or if the farmer is inexperienced or has a massive family emergency of some sort. But generally, if the harvest is good and everything goes as planned, you get a box or bag of fresh, locally grown produce every week. I love that!
In the past, bf and I have participated in weekly fruit/veggie deliveries, but none of them were CSA (the fruits and veggies weren’t all grown locally and the things we received weren’t always in season because they were coming from across the country). We did that with a few different companies (we found deals on groupon and living social), but weren’t really happy with the quality of the produce and preferred to find a local farmer. We found a couple last year, but missed the cutoff date to participate. So now that I’ve found this CSA (and they have a local pickup point), it seems like it’s “meant to be”. But the cost of the share is a pretty good chunk of change, so I’m weighing all my options before I write the check.
Things I’m considering:
- Cost- The cost of the 24-week “half share” is $530. So the weekly cost would be $22.08. Not too bad considering each week we’d receive one half bushel box of fresh seasonal produce. Can I buy that produce cheaper at the grocery store? Maybe? That being said, $530 a lot of money to drop upfront on produce that we have no choice in choosing, so I want to make a smart decision based not only on cost, but also on some of the factors below.
- Selection- What if I’m planning on making stuffed green peppers for dinner and that week’s box doesn’t have green peppers? Do I buy them at the store, or just cook with what’s in the box? What If I’m craving strawberries, but they’re out of season? Wow, we’re really spoiled when it comes to food selection these days, aren’t we? I bet 100 years ago people weren’t worried about if they have a midnight craving for blackberries.
- Amount of food- We’re a two person (one dog, two cat) household and I hate the idea of food waste. Specifically, I’m a little bit worried we might not eat all of the food in the share and might end up throwing some of it away. However, we just bought a juicer, so if we didn’t eat everything we probably could juice a great deal of it. I also have hungry co-workers (wink), so if worse came to worse, I could bring the extra produce to work so that nothing was thrown away.
- Ease of pick-up- The shares are ready to pick-up every Saturday at a local farmer’s market. Although the market is only a mile from our house, I definitely wouldn’t want to walk back with a heavy box of fruit and veggies. Which means bf would need to drive there to pick it up. Not a huge deal, but we don’t always use our car on Saturday morning (which means bf would need to walk to pick up the car-we pay for garage parking a few blocks away, the drop off the box and return the car).
- Will I eat everything included?- There are no substitutions or changes allowed with the shares. So if I don’t like something I can’t swap it out for something else. I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to fruits and veggies (I don’t eat red meat or pork so I’m picky like that) so eating everything shouldn’t be a problem. Although there are a few fruits (cantaloupe) and veggies (fennel) that I don’t really like. I can make myself eat them, but if I got a box of cantaloupe and fennel I’d be pretty bummed!
- Eat local, buy local. Everybody knows how hard the tri-state area was hit by hurricane Sandy. Yes many people have recovered, but many people still have not. For that reason, and many others I try to keep my money in the local economy when possible. That means supporting local farmers and businesses. Local produce means fresher produce and love the idea that I’d be supporting a local family owned farm and eating locally grown fruits and veggies.
Have you ever participated in CSA? If you haven’t, have you considered it? Is it crazy to spend $530 on the “unknown”