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.Tweet