CSAs: the pros and cons

I am a hearty proponent of Community Supported Agriculture, but we don’t belong to a CSA. The other day, someone asked me why.

We tried two different CSA plans in Tennessee. Both were excellent experiences, and taught us a lot about our eating habits and seasonal production in the area. Two of the most important things were learned were that a) Not one person in our family likes collard or mustard greens, not even me, no matter how I cook them, and b) for several months out of the year, what you get in your box is collard greens, mustard greens, or collard and mustard greens. Big huge bunches of them, turning yellow and eventually being thrown away.

Frankly, I like being able to choose what we eat. I am all about eating in season, but I also recognize that forcing myself to purchase food that I know will rot in the fridge uneaten is unfair to our family, that money is better used somewhere else. Collard greens, mustard greens, okra, eggplant after the first few weeks, even watermelon… nothing is going to get my family to eat these things for weeks on end no matter how creatively I hide them. There are some things I buy every week if possible.  Sweet peppers of every color possible. Green onions. Sweet potatoes. Tomatoes. Chinese greens like tat soi and various cabbages, and of course lettuce. Fresh herbs.

If there was a CSA where I could choose what we buy, and the money would go directly to the farmers with no middle men, I would join in a second! Wait… I already have that, though. That’s called a farmer’s market.

There’s also the “spread the wealth” part of it. I spend an average on $40 at the farmer’s market every week, double the amount of an average CSA plan. I buy a little here, a little there. A few things I buy from the same farmers every week they’re available, either because that farmer is the only one who produces that item, or because I think his product is superior or he has an exceptional price. There are also a few farmers I buy something from every week because I just think they’re nice, or funny, or friendly.

If you don’t have time to peruse the farmer’s market, or enjoy the challenge of finding new recipes for a few veggies that’s you’ll see week after week and a few that you may never have eaten before, or you want to support a specific farm, then CSAs are the way to go. CSAs are also usually a big price break for organic produce specifically, you’ll get much more for your money in an organic CSA box than paying the premium prices in a grocery store. If you prefer to choose what you eat each week, spread the wealth around to many farmers, and enjoy wandering around the market, then farmer’s markets might be the way to go.

Isn’t it great to have these choices?

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