Community Supported Agriculture CSA Review

November 7, 2010

in 30-Minute Cook

Earlier this year I signed up for a CSA, or community-supported agriculture, share, and wrote a post about what you need to know about CSAs. Basically, it’s pre-ordering a share of the harvest from a group of local farms. Each week I received a delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables, depending on what was ripe. I was really excited, as it was the first time I’d tried anything like this!

I thought I’d take this chance to give you the recap and my take on CSAs.

The pluses: I loved the idea that I was supporting local agriculture. There is too much importing of foods, and I think the more we know about where our food comes from, the better off we are.

The minuses: We ordered a large share, which I assumed would mean we’d just get more of whatever was included in the smaller share (for instance, if the small share had 4 potatoes, I thought we’d get 6 or 7 potatoes). This wasn’t exactly the way it worked. Instead, we often got the same number of each item, but just got a wider assortment of items. So we’d get 4 potatoes and 3 zucchini. As a result, I found it difficult to cook. I had to come up with a recipe for a small number of potatoes, and a small number of other items. I’d rather just cook more of one recipe for my larger family than have to come up with more dishes.

Also, I didn’t care for getting the delivery once a week. Oftentimes, the greens were wilted by the time I got them home, and four or five days in the fridge didn’t help things any. As a result, a lot of my share got wasted (I would say about half went unused). I also didn’t have the space to store it all in the refrigerator, so that made things difficult.

Another drawback for me was that I didn’t know what I was getting ahead of time, so I couldn’t complete a menu plan for the week. I found myself scrambling at the last minute, trying to come up with recipes. This goes against my plan-plan-plan philosophy, and made me really stressed.

Finally, I received a lot of items we’d never tried before and weren’t crazy about. So then I had to come up with new recipes and try to convince my family to try it. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t.

The upshot: For me, a CSA was wasted money. I know many people who really like them, but I’d much rather shop a few times a week for the items on my plan and buy enough for my entire family. It might cost a bit more per item at Whole Foods, but in the long run, it’s much less.

If you are an adventuresome cook with a flexible family (and a large fridge!), CSAs may work for you. Or if your CSA does things differently from mine, it might work better. But we won’t be doing the CSA again next summer. It was worth a shot, and I consider it an experimental success!

P.S. Another great option is local farm stands and farmers’ markets. I’ll be more diligent about using these options next summer.

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  • Maureen

    Nice to hear I am not alone in this, I pretty much felt the same way. I had to pick mine up between 3-6 on Tuesday – the limited time ruined many a Tuesday.

    Also I often didn’t know what some of the veggies were, it seemed every time a googled a recipe it had bacon in it…and I just felt that was a little bit counter to healthy eating…..

  • sue

    As a former farm wife, I like the idea of this program but I agree that getting vegetables that you couldn’t use, were wilted or not enough of what you did want make it useless to the consumer. I do love the idea of supporting the agricultural community. I think Farmer’s Markets (located in many areas) or farm stands would be your best bet.

  • sue

    http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/

    You might want to bookmark this address for next spring. You can enter your area information and it will give you a list of Farmer’s Markets in your area.

    You may also want to contact your local county Farm Bureau for links to Farmer’s Markets or farm stands near you.

  • Carrie H.

    We belong to a CSA that seems to work differently… and we really like it! We can choose to get a small or large box every week or every other, and we get an e-mail notification about 4 days before pickup. It lists what we will be getting in the box and there is a window of time to make changes- I can permanently remove vegetables that we dislike, double up on favorites, or replace them with a choice that I do like. It has encouraged us to try a few new things, have regular veggies and fruit as a part of our meal plans, and it usually doesn’t go to waste. Right now with a family of 5 (3 young children) the small box suits us, but I’m sure we will upgrade to a large box as our family gets older :) Our CSA is called Full Circle Farm in Carnation, WA, and they even do delivery in the greater Seattle area and door to door service as well.

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