What is a CSA?
A CSA, Community Shared Agriculture, is a system where people pay a farm in advance at the beginning of the growing season for a share of the season’s produce. Fresh produce is delivered (or picked up) once a week for the season, which usually lasts 20-22 weeks.
What are the benefits?
You never know what you are going to get. Every week is a surprise! You can, however, always count on it being fresh and high quality. CSAs allow you to make a one-time choice that enables healthy eating for the following 22 weeks. Having a wide variety of fresh vegetables on hand each week without having to make the conscious choice every time of what to buy makes cooking healthy meals easier. We definitely eat healthier during CSA season!
A Chance to Be Creative
We hate wasting food, so we always get creative and use as much as we possibly can every week. I ramp up my canning, preserving, freezing, and broth-making during CSA season so we can enjoy the abundance of great flavors during the winter, too.
Eating New Things
A CSA will expand your food horizons. How often would you choose to buy sunchokes, kohlrabi, rutabagas, tatsoi, or patty pan squash at your local store? How often do you even see those things on the shelves? Local farmers often grow heirloom varietals that are tastier and more exciting than what gets shipped in to grocery stores. Did you even know there were dozens of kinds of garlic? Have you ever tasted a green tiger tomato?
Getting Closer to your Food’s Source
This will be the fifth year that Amanda and I have participated in a CSA. For the last two years we’ve been part of one from the Peace and Carrots Farm. Farmer Laura Nywening delivers to the Yonkers Farmers’ Market on Friday afternoons. Almost everything is picked on the same day it is delivered!
Laura stayed around the market after her delivery a few times and it was fun picking her brain about the farm. She taught me all about hardneck vs softneck garlic, the Rocambole varietal she grows (which is excellent), and we talked about saving seeds. She is passionate about growing the tastiest, healthiest produce and using sustainable farming practices. We love knowing where our vegetables come from, who planted them, and who picked them. We even get to follow the farm’s progress on Instagram!
What do you get? What does it cost?
In 2016 I decided to keep track of everything we received during the season. I looked up what each of these items would cost if delivered from Peapod, a local delivery service. I picked the price for organic items when I could find them and searched other sites when there were items Peapod doesn’t sell.
We paid $495 at the beginning of the season (which breaks down to $22.50 per week). According to my unscientific analysis, the awesome stuff we received from Peace and Carrots Farm would have cost us around $612 from Peapod. An extra $117 worth of organic produce is nothing to sneeze at!
Here is my data. I’m sure it is slightly off because I collected it by hand in an unstructured way, but it is in the ballpark. I recorded some week late from memory and we missed two weeks because we were traveling, so I estimated by copying either the previous or following weeks.
Here is (roughly) what we received over the 2016 season:
|Garlic Scapes (bunch of 3)||2|
|Grape tomatoes (pint)||10|
|Green beans (bag)||2|
|Green Leaf Lettuce||9|
|Green tiger tomatoes||16|
|Long Island Cheese Pumpkin||3|
|Patty Pan Squash||2|
|Red Leaf Lettuce||7|
|Sugar Snap Peas (bag)||3|
Here are photos of 8 of the 22 shares. Peace and Carrots farm always sends a great variety! I grabbed these photos of of their Instagram because I forgot to take my own. Some data collector I am! (Also, corn must have been one of the weeks I was out of town because it isn’t in my sheet. Bummer.)
Find a CSA Near You
You need to sign up before the growing season starts, so you have about a little over a month left.
If you are near Chester or West Point, NY, sign up for the Peace and Carrots Farm CSA.
If you are near Yonkers, NY, sign up for the Peace and Carrots Farm CSA through Groundwork Hudson Valley.
There are CSAs all around the US, so find one near you through LocalHarvest.org!
If you do join one, spend some time getting to know the farmer and learning about what you eat. You will appreciate your meals on a deeper level.