CSAs: What’s the scoop?

With all the very soaking rain which has only just barely tapered off in Massachusetts I have been turned to thoughts of growing things. Well, more accurately, I’ve been looking into possibly joining in a Community Supported Agriculture offering near my home (and possibly a meat CSA!) this summer.  The whole idea sounds intriguing for many reasons, mostly because I did not find self-grown tomatoes or squash to work out so well in a patio version last summer but also for this:

“CSA benefits you by providing a constant supply of produce locally grown and offered at the peak of ripeness and absolute freshness. Small farmers are able to grow produce that is better tasting than that of large commercial farms, which often grow fruits and vegetables designed to be mechanically harvested and transported greater distances. For many who are concerned about how their food is grown and the distance most of our food travels to get to the supermarket, developing a trusting relationship with the farmer is the number one benefit.” (Emphasis mine)

For those who, like me, had no idea at all what this was a week ago, here’s the gist:

You pay what feels like a huge amount up front at the start of the season.  Then every week (or month for meat CSA) you go to a designated pick-up spot to get a big box of your very own fresh fruits/veggies.

After doing some math I found that the cost is actually very reasonable (at least for the one I’m looking at; others were higher and so it merits research) when worked out to a weekly cost.  It would be less than buying from the store; would support the local growers; and would provide me with some (sometimes unknown to my cooking and purchasing habits) fresh deliciousness. It seems that some folks only worry that they get too MUCH food in each week’s allotment.  Though with freezing and maybe even canning that would be a fun bonus for me.

Since I’m still looking into the idea I thought I’d throw out a line and find out other people’s thoughts.  Have you joined a CSA?  Did you like it?  Did you hate it? Would you do it again?  What are your thoughts on the concept in general?  Do you have suggestions for anyone looking to take on a share?  Do you have some new produce that you’ve learned to love since joining a CSA and getting it in your weekly share? Recipes?  Anything really.

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10 thoughts on “CSAs: What’s the scoop?

  1. I really love my CSA. Using everything can be a trick (I still have random veggies in my freezer from last year).

    Ours even includes a cookbook with recipes for the veggies you get.

    I actually learned that I like radishes if they’re cooked, and that I like most greens if they’re only just barely cooked.

    Ours does a lot of tomatoes, and occasionally tomatillos and cilantro, so we made a bunch of homemade salsa.

    This winter we’ve gotten more sweet potatoes than you can shake a stick at. I learned that you can make the pumpkin bread recipe in The Joy of Cooking with any cooked mashed squash, yam, or sweet potato. Sweet potato bread is very yummy, and is a way my husband actually likes sweet potatoes. Sweet potato chips, also awesome.

  2. I’ve never signed on with a CSA, though I’m seriously contemplating giving it a go. I look forward to hearing how your experiences work out.

    Oh, and if you ever find yourself with an abundance of something you don’t know how to cook, get in touch with me. I have a HUGE cookbook library and a eagerness to help others find great recipes.

    Seriously, if you have it in your pantry/refrigerator, chances are I have at least a dozen good recipes for it.

    Also, keep in mind that some CSAs give you a lot of control over what goes in your box, while others don’t. If you’re worried about not knowing what to do with half your share, consider looking into one that lets you tell them what you don’t want out of their produce.

  3. I would SO do this if there was a decent one nearby. The grocery stores in my neighborhood are a joke. I miss the farmers’ markets upstate. A really good ripe tomato or fresh strawberries, can make me so happy!

  4. Pingback: CSA: Yes please! « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  5. I don’t do CSAs because I have enough room to grow most of my own veggies, but if I didn’t, I’d be doing it.

    The main disadvantage is that in many CSAs, you don’t get a choice about what you get, so you may get lots of veggies you don’t like, or some new ones you aren’t crazy about. So I agree with Twistie, find a CSA where you have some choice in what you get if you have many veggies you don’t care for.

    Another consideration is that sometimes you can get totally overwhelmed with the amount of veggies you get. If so, then just donate them to a friend or to the local food bank. You won’t need to do this most of the time, but if you don’t do a lot of freezing/preserves, you might need to.

    Or you could just toss any leftovers into the compost, but doesn’t sound like that’s an option for you. 🙂

    Fresh veggies and fruits and SUCH a wonderful treat, and a CSA is a great way to get them. Sometimes people need to adjust the amount they get, or go halfsies with someone else……word to the wise. Otherwise, I find most folks love it.

    • Thanks for the reminder on Twistie’s idea about getting a share with more choice. The one we selected offers a few options and most everything on their list of veggies and fruits they grow sound delicious so I’m pretty excited! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Call out for Recipes: Beets! « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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