because it's been sitting in your pantry that long).
When we started eating organic my produce bill went up slightly. I was careful about what I was buying, trying to eat in season, and it really did make a difference. However, I knew at roughly $28 a week, it was ridiculous. The local natural food store I went to had a brochure on all of the farms in Southeastern Wisconsin and what they had for sale. I was amazed at just how many farms were offering me fresh, local food...literally in my backyard! My husband and I decided it was more economical to join a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which pretty much means that you buy "shares" in a local farm and when they begin to harvest you get fresh food delivered, either to your door or very close to your home. It's a great way for you to support a local farmer, while knowing you are eating food that was just harvested that week!
For our CSA, we paid $420 for 23 weeks worth of produce (so, now I just saved $10 a week off of my grocery bill, and I was getting local food, and a whole variety of it!). Additionally, we did a winter share for $45 which is delivered at the end of the harvest, and usually contains a 30 lb box of things to last you through the winter (or in WI...most of the winter!) like potatoes, some greens, onions, etc. Our farm also has eggs, which I paid $27 for a half dozen every other week. That comes out to about $2 every other week for 6 eggs. At the store, I'd pay at least $4 or more for a dozen cage-free, organic eggs, so I figured I was breaking even (or better since I knew the farm the chickens were raised at).
So, what's with the title of the post? Why wouldn't you join a CSA? Honestly, I think everyone can benefit from a CSA; however, there are a couple things you want to keep in mind when deciding to join:
- You get A LOT of food. One box usually lasts us 2 weeks or more, so be prepared.
- Since you get a lot of food, you don't want it to go bad so you must eat it. Eating it often requires cooking it.
Cooking it requires effort on your part....(;
- Be prepared to try new foods. You will get different things, many of which you may have never eaten....or
prepared before. My first share had me experimenting with tomatillos and squashes.
- Some CSAs have pick up locations, which are usually at the home of someone in your neighborhood. Be
courteous and pick your box up at the scheduled day and time of the week. If you can't make it that week, or
are on vacation, call the farm so they know you won't be needing a share. Often times the farm will donate
your share to a local food pantry.
If you any of these reasons make you a little nervous about the investment, don't worry! There are ways that you can still enjoy a CSA. If you are concerned about the amount of food you are getting, find a friend and split the share (this can help cut down the cost too, if that's one of your concerns). As well, when it comes to the cost, many farms offer a worker share program. You give them some of your time and "work" at the farm. You help them harvest, wash the produce, pack it up, etc. In exchange, they give you part or all of a share. If you don't know how to cook, or don't feel comfortable cooking new foods many of the farms send newsletters with receipes on how to cook or things to make with the items in that week's box. Some farms even have an exchange program, if there is something in your box that you don't like, you can leave it at the pick up spot for someone else to enjoy (at the same time, if there is something in the exchange box that you do like, you are free to take it). There are pros and cons to everything.
If you're still unsure if a CSA is right for you, that's OK. It's a committment, but one that is well worth it in my book. Even if you decide not to join a CSA, continue to experiment with foods found at your local farm stands or farmer's markets. Once you get to know some of the farmers, you may consider trying down the road. Just remember, eating local is best!