Is A CSA Right For You?

Typically, the CSA share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Members receive ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits that come along. Often new vegetable varieties and new ways of cooking are exposed. And, members have the opportunity to develop a relationship with the farmer that produces their food and to learn more about their practices. Further prices can be lower because the middle delivery method is removed and shipping costs are greatly reduced.

It's a return to a historic and simple method of feeding one’s family.

CSAs aren't just for produce anymore. Shareholders often have the option to buy shares of eggs or other farm products as well. Sometimes several farmers will offer their products together, to increase the variety available.

One of the most important aspects of a CSA is SHARED RISK. Generally, CSA members pay up front for the entire growing season. If environmental or other issues arise that restrict the quantity and or quality of what is available each week, members are not usually reimbursed. There is a cooperative, joint sharing of the risk inherent in the natural production system. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. CSA farmers and shareholders operate in a good faith manner. Knowledge of and trust in the CSA farmer is essential to a vibrant relationship. The important message is that there is a potential for expectations to not be met, but they could also be exceeded in a banner year.

If shared risk gives you concern then you might be better served by shopping at a farmers market. Many CSAs will also deliver their excess produce for sale at farmers markets. Some will also have a per box / product order and delivery mechanism each week. This is usually at a higher price than what a shareholder would pay, but it also reduces the risk component of the relationship.

You need to understand your personal and family eating habits. How you ARE and not how you WANT to be. Involve your family in the decision.

Can you afford to embrace the notion of shared risk? The good and the bad side. How will you feel about not receiving your perceived “money’s worth” in a down time? How will you handle excess produce in an up time? Do you have persons that you can give or sell your excess to?

Are you open to trying new vegetables that may appear in your share basket? Does your family like to experiment with new recipes? And, do you have time and energy to prepare new (or even the regular) varieties?

Are your assumptions and expectations met in the agreement with the CSA vendor and are you willing to accept any gaps?
Be mindful of the fact that joining a CSA does not mean that you will never need to buy produce from another source throughout the season. Is this something that your budget can handle? Remember, you will be eating produce that is consistent with the local season. Produce that typically becomes available late in the season may only be available for your table from another source early in the season.

The majority of members of CSAs are happy with the program. But the take-away is that your assumptions and expectations must be realistic if you are to be satisfied.

Buy Local
Connect with the food you eat.
Eat Well
Buy the freshest food for your family and explore new foods.

Be Healthy
Eat more fresh vegetables.
Share healthy eating habits with your family.
Protect the Environment
Cut down on the number of miles your food travels to your plate.