It’s no secret that I love joining my CSA year after year. I’ve been involved in mine for 3 years now, and it is something I look forward to every year. I thought I’d answer some frequently asked questions I get, so you can see if it’s a good fit for you!
What is a CSA?
CSA Stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA allows individuals to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer!
Supporting Local Farmers
CSA’s keep small farms going! Rather than buying less-than-average, shipped from who knows where, produce from your supermarket, you get to meet the farmers and support them and all of their hard work (it is A LOT of work). So while shopping at the farmer’s market or grocery store is great, I truly believe that joining a CSA is even better.
How Does a CSA Operate
I’ve seen them operate mainly in two ways.
- Pre-Packed: Some CSAs have a pick up location (some even drop-off!) where you go and get the pre-packaged/portioned box of your fresh produce.
- Farmer Market Style: Others, like mine, give you let’s say 9 out of 12 options to pick from, and you can pick which of the items you want. They also have a pick-your-own area where you can pick herbs and things!
- Length of Time: So mine runs from June-October (20 weeks), but I imagine they vary based on where you live, and so on. Mine also offers the opportunity to do 10-week or 20-week shares, because it’s often A LOT to do weekly if you are cooking for let’s say 2 people.
- If you think a CSA is something that may be great for you, I encourage doing some research and finding a CSA that works for you. There may be only one or two to choose from, but if you live in a place where there are options, it is a good idea to take time to look around, because each farm varies in the payments, what you get, what they ask of you, etc.
How It Saves Me Money
While upfront it seems like a large sum (every CSA is a different cost), the amount of produce I get weekly is beyond! By the end of the season at some points, I can take 20 pounds of potatoes and tomatoes (for example)! So while initially you may be like, wow that seems like a lot, when I have compared it to my grocery shopping in the stores, it pays for itself for sure!
Getting Creative in the Kitchen
Another bonus is sometimes you get/can pick unique produce that you wouldn’t often cook with, which can be really fun! Aside from always have fresh food in the fridge, the thought of a fridge-full of produce will encourage creativity. For example, I never used garlic scapes until my CSA and now I love them! AND you can totally get kiddos involved. They think it’s super fun to help in the kitchen, and if you have a CSA where you get to pick, there usually is an entire community for kids! They love going!
Want CSA-inspired recipe ideas? Here are some we’ve done over the years:
- Eggplant Lasagna Roll Ups
- Grilled Fish Bowls with Garlic Scapes
- Herb Cucumber Salad
- Thai Curry Soup
- Jicama Kale Salad
- Potato Leek and Chard Frittata
- Vietnamese Beef Cabbage Wraps with Okra
- Tomatillo Salsa
- How to Make Fresh Tomato Sauce with ALL those CSA tomatoes!
It’s Not Always JUST Produce
Mine, and many that I know of, also offer fresh meat, eggs, and cheese/fresh local dairy from local farms available for purchase when you pick up! I absolutely love this. I get my honey, apple cider vinegar, cheese, and eggs there all season long.
Some Things to Consider
- Some people find it overwhelming to go and then feel pressure to cook/use what they get. So if you loathe cooking (which I hope you don’t), you may not love it.
- You also might find there’s some waste (or not going to lie, I do, but am working on it). Since they aren’t sprayed with chemicals to preserve the produce, they don’t last as long.
- Lastly, my CSA does not have fruit (except watermelons and cantaloupes at the end of the season, and sometimes raspberries in the beginning), so you still may have to supplement on top of your CSA.
How to Find a CSA Near You
- If you Google “CSA NEAR ME” results should pop up with CSA’s in your area!
- Ask a friend/neighbor/etc. — while the CSA near me search is totally effective, I found mine through neighbors!
- Local in MA? Here is my CSA that I have been a part of for years, and absolutely LOVE it and highly recommend it. I also happen to know they still have 10 or 20 week shares available!
- Also, mine had an orientation which I really loved and recommend attending if yours does too. You can learn about their farming practices, organic, standards they uphold, etc.
So, do you belong to a CSA?!