what is a csa

What is a CSA Box

Let me tell you why CSAs are so Awesome! CSAs are a way of connecting consumers with farmers. CSAs for fruits and vegetables have been around for a while. But lately, egg and beef CSAs have also been popping up! 

What is a CSA Box?

Our lives are so busy these days. From going to work, to driving the kids to activities, it feels as though we always have somewhere to be! Because of that, I am really excited that our CSA box will be starting this weekend! Each Saturday, after Judo, the kids and I will drive to a local farm to pick up our fresh produce. So, are you wondering what a CSA box is yet?

what is a csa

A CSA box is an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables harvested by a local farmer of your choice. They grow and pick the vegetables for their members and have it ready for pick up on your designated day. The produce is fresh and therefore more nutritious than store-bought produce. And the feeling you get for helping out a farmer is just the best! 

A Component of Clean Eating Healthy Living 

When most people think of clean eating, they often focus on the recipes. However, the very essence of the movement is that we should be eating as close to nature as possible and the one component that is often overlooked is where your food comes from. Is it organic? If not, does the farmer use organic practices? How large is the farm and are the animals being well cared for?

support local farms

Now I am ALL about convenience as much as the next person. I use Instant cart at least weekly and I place periodic orders from Thrive Market to be delivered straight to my front door.  I don’t have time to add one more errand to my schedule and I utilize any help I can get. However, I believe in CSA’s so much that I make it a priority in my life. Let me tell you a little more and by the end, you will be a believer too!

What Does CSA Stand For? And Why Helping Farmers is So Important

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it allows consumers to connect with local farmers. I work in lending at a Bank and I see loans to farmers all the time. When it comes to small farmers, many of them are operating on small margins. If there is one year of bad weather or one crop that doesn’t fare well that year, the farm really takes a financial hit. They sell their produce to the stores at a steep discount and sometimes have an agreement with large stores to take back produce that doesn’t sell. Some years their crop will sell at high profit margins, but other years, the price of the crops crash. However, when they are planting their seeds, they don’t always know what the prices are going to look like when it comes time to sell their produce. Now add in tarrifs and regulations on workers and the business costs skyrocket. In the end, some years result in farmers operating at little to no profit. Keep in mind that many farmers have children and families to support. 

lemon sorrel

Why We NEED Our Farmers

However, when we talk to farmers who are struggling, they express their desire to keep the farm going. They love what they do and they want to find a way to make it work. To be fair, they do have good years that, when budgeted, will carry them through the tough years. They are hard workers with a passion for farming and they honestly care about the people they are producing the food for. And let’s face it, we don’t want to see farms disappear! If farms are gone, large corporations will take over and we will start to see more GMO foods since they are cheaper and easier to produce. Organic options may be limited and the corporations will be able to set prices with little to no competition. We will never know where our food is coming from or what processes they use. In the end, the food will not be as nutritious and there will be more chances of food borne illnesses since quality control will be compromised.  

Pros and Cons of a CSA

As with anything, participating in a CSA comes with risks. However, I’m going to convince you that the benefits outweigh the risks! Remember that by supporting a CSA farm, you will also be joining the sustainable agriculture movement! So let get down to the Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Support Your Local Farmers! This is the largest pro for me personally. I just love meeting the farmers and talking to them about their produce. When I tell you they take pride in what they grow, I mean it! Take 5 minutes a week to talk to the farmer and you will see what I mean. They have a way of getting you excited about it too!
  • Know Where Your Food Comes From and Get the Kids of their Tablets – I once saw a show that said kids in some areas couldn’t recognize vegetables such as eggplants, zucchinis and onions. That was just shocking to me! Bring your kids to the CSA Farm and let them see how their food grows and where it comes from. They will keep that experience with them forever. It also gets them out of the house and away from electronics!
  • Eat More Nutritious Vegetables – CSA farmers take pride in their products so they want you to be happy. As a result, they often pick their produce at optimal times. Usually, this is the day before pick up and sometimes even the morning of. Vegetables start to lose their nutrition as soon as they are picked. So those vegetables in the grocery store are questionable!
  • Vegetable Varieties You Have Never Heard of – Because the CSA is a small farmer, they often like to experiment with unique varieties of produce. We have had some odd varieties of squash, lettuce and tomatoes. Even though they look weird, they are so much fun! It’s fun to try new varieties!
  • Sometimes More Affordable Than Stores – The CSA that we participate in breaks down to $25 a week. If we were to have the produce delivered, it would be an additional $5. For the amount of produce we get, it is cheaper than what we would pay in the grocery store
  • An Excuse to Buy Cute Tote Bags – I can hear my husbands eyes rolling but I care not! I am always looking for an excuse to buy cute tote bags and CSA’s are no different. Afterall, I will need a way of getting my produce home…for my husband to eat! This is my favorite bag (This is an affiliate link and I may receive a small commission on your purchase but I really do love this one) 🙂

Cons of CSAs

  • You May Have to Pay Upfront – Many CSAs require you to pay for the entire season up front. Some will offer payment plans to make it manageable and I have even seen some that allow you to pay weekly. The farmer is using these funds to buy seeds, set up irrigation and grow the vegetables. I had to pay for our CSA box by January 15th and we won’t start picking up our produce until April.
  • You Are Taking A Risk on the Crops – There are several aspects that could affect the produce that you receive. Some factors include weather, rot and disease. There is no guarantee that you will get a full box each week. While this has never been an issue for us, it is something to keep in mind. 
  • One More Stop In The Week – I haven’t seen many CSA’s that deliver to the house. When I worked in downtown there were office dropsites where you could pick up your produce. It worked well as long as you weren’t catching the bus home! Unless you can find a delivery CSA, you will likely have to pick it up at the farm or a neighbors house that has been designated as a drop site. I try to view it as an activity with the kids, so it’s more of an adventure for us.
  • No Customizing – Now I have seen a few CSAs that will allow you to customize your box. But most of them won’t allow it, simply because they don’t have the volume to be able to offer options. They typically have a set list for the week and that is what you get. Sometimes we get something we don’t like but I either give it away on the local buy nothing site or freeze it until I can figure out what to do with it. Almost any frozen fruit or veggie can be added to a smoothie. 

Ready To Sign Up For Your CSA? 

Start by searching for a local CSA near you. Local Harvest is a great start: Click Here to Check it Out.  It takes a little time to read through the site and figure out which will work best for you, but it is worth it! The peak time for CSAs is in June so you still have time to find one and sign up. They are limited to a specific number of members simply due to supply, so you will want to get it as soon as you pick one. 

Now go and find your local CSA! Be sure to let me know what you think! I’m also excited to answer any questions you might have!

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