You may wonder what the difference is between supporting a farmer by going to a farmer’s market versus joining their CSA.
Why would you join their CSA?
We asked ourselves this question many times as we established and grew our farm. Who would want to join our CSA? Why? Are they passionate about where their food comes from? Is there more to it?
We’ve done some research and looked extensively at other small farms. We’ve studied different CSA models and we’ve tried to come up with a CSA that would represent us the best as well as give the CSA member the best possible experience.
In doing so, we’ve found several common questions that you should ask yourself when considering joining a CSA and we wanted to share them with you!
But first, let’s be clear, CSA’s are not for everyone, and that’s totally okay. Before you make the decision to commit to a season, you should consider what your expectations are and what your answers are to these simple questions. Also, we want to emphasize what CSA actually is. It stands for ‘Community Supported Agriculture’. Your farmer commits to growing your food. When you become a member, you and other members commit to your farmer by purchasing your share every week throughout the harvesting season.
Let’s see if CSA is a good fit for you!…
But first, pour yourself another cup of coffee or if it’s cocktail hour, maybe grab a nice local craft beer or glass of wine and let’s see if this CSA thing is right for you.
Is the relationship with the farmer that grows your food important? Does it even matter at all?
If supporting a local farmer matters to you, then CSA may be the way to go.
In the United States, many people young and old take for granted the fact that food is everywhere. Processed or not, clean or dirty, good or bad, junk food or health food, we can simply get whatever we want whenever we want it – and that is a good thing. But with this abundance, we’ve been far removed from knowing where our food actually comes from. Somewhere, someone grows your food, at least unprocessed food. Twinkies aren’t grown and neither are pizza rolls but the cornerstone of your daily meals are grown. Do you know where? Do you know what they used to grow it? Did they use chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers? Do you care?
If you want to shake the hand that grows your food, see the land that produces your vegetables, and if you want to support a local farmer then you may be very happy committing to a CSA.
This commitment also means sticking with your farmer through thick and thin each season. That means MOTHER NATURE in all her wondrous glory – too much sun, too much rain, too many bugs, and so on. Mark our words: there will be seasons when you will not have every single vegetable we planned to have in your box. And there will be seasons where you will enjoy the benefits of a bumper crop of tomatoes, or cucumbers, or potatoes! Are you okay with this?
Please know that our role is more than just growing your food. We want you to enjoy your food! This means we share our favorite recipes, how to store your vegetables, and help you get the most out of your shares each week.
Is the quality of your vegetables important to you? Do you want flavor?
We often hear from ‘old-timers’ that food doesn’t taste like it used to. Well yeah, when your growing for the masses, quantity outweighs quality. If this is not an issue for you, then CSA is not the route you should go.
If you want a sweet, juicy, vine-ripened tomato with a burst of flavor (among many other vegetables), then CSA is for you.
You don’t have to be a foodie to love vegetables that actually have flavor. If you love flavorful veggies, then CSA is for you.
We’ve been asked at Farmer’s Markets several times if our tomatoes were grown in the dirt. Believe it or not, there is a flavor difference in good quality-soil-grown tomatoes versus hydroponic tomatoes. Many people want their food grown in the dirt! Do you?
How willing are you at trying new foods?
For example, we grew kohlrabi last spring. It was new for us, and it was new for our customers. We were excited to cook it and taste it prepared in different ways. We were excited to then share this with our customers! Is that something that interests you? If you are excited about expanding your pallet, then CSA is for you.
Are you flexible in your weekly menu planning?
If you like spontaneity in your meals or you like improvising with what you receive in your box, then CSA would be fantastic for you.
If you need to keep to a strict menu or meal plan then CSA is not a good fit for you.
Consider this: Will it completely stress you out to receive acorn squash in your box? Or will it inspire you?
Can you eat the CSA way?
In the beginning, some food will go to waste…..until you tap into your inner CSA jedi-mode.
At first, you may look at your fresh spinach and think of a simple spinach salad or see it as a good smoothie ingredient. As time goes on, you may be making spinach and bacon stuffed chicken cutlets with a red wine vinegar reduction. There will also be times when you’ve realized that your beautiful bunch of spinach got pushed to the bottom of your crisper drawer and sadly forgotten.
There will be weeks where you’re culinary creativity kicks in, and others where you are not inspired at all. Some weeks you will have plenty of time in the kitchen with your food, and other weeks where you have zero time. This happens to us all! Are you okay knowing sometimes the food may not be always prepared perfectly, or eaten at all?
Question #6 – This is a very important question.
Are you looking for a “deal” or are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?
What we’ve experienced and read, is that people who fully embrace the CSA model don’t look for their membership to be a “deal” or a bargain. And they don’t compare the CSA price to the grocery store price table.
It is imperative to ask, “How much does it cost?”, and to then weigh the pros and the cons.
Supporting a CSA ﬁnancially however is not just about doing a cost analysis of each vegetable you receive in your box and comparing it to what you’d pay at H-E-B or Kroger.
From seed to harvest to box, CSA vegetables come to your plate with a story. The story of how the food was grown, how it was harvested, and what struggles it faced to come to your plate. It is the story of a farm and how vegetables have been grown since the dawn of agriculture. They also tell the story of your journey with food. Grocery stores simply can’t give you this experience.
Most CSA customers appreciate this experience, and are willing to pay a premium for it. If you are comparing costs of your share to your local grocery store, then CSA is not something you should consider.
Remember, CSA is just one model out there for getting fresh farm food onto your table. For those who value the experience, and the farmer relationship behind the food, it can be a great option that can change the way you eat.
There is absolutely no shame in passing on CSA and instead buying weekly from a farmer’s market.
It’s all about what fits your needs. And if the CSA philosophy aligns with your lifestyle, expectations and desires, then you are ready to make that commitment.
After you consider all 6 of these question and you‘ve made your decision, it’s time to take the next step. If you are ready to have an amazing food experience through CSA, send us an email and we will forward you the details to sign up!