From the SO Community: CSA Experiences

It’s been fascinating to me to learn about some of your experiences with your CSAs. I myself have learned a few things myself, and plan to share about one aspect in particular next week, but for now, I wanted to share some of your experiences and see what we can all learn about the benefits of belonging to a CSA (community supported agriculture).

From reading your comments, a common thread is how impactful belonging to a CSA can be on children. I know this is true for my family. I love that those of us who belong to a CSA (the same goes for buying from a farmstand, farmer’s market, or gardening in general) are giving our children a chance to better understand where food actually comes from–real food, that is.

As another benefit to moms of young ones, Kristen M. pointed out that, “One positive outcome has been that my picky sweet-toothed seven-year old has become increasingly willing to try new foods from the CSA box and farmer’s market.”

Read on, for more reader experiences and lessons we can learn from and about CSAs.

On Facebook, Nichole told us,

“I have had a CSA for the last two years they are a local farm right down the road and I have loved it. Once a week my young daughter and I get to visit the farm we have gotten to know the whole family. They now feel like friends.”

How neat is that? Getting to know your farmer is a great way to feel more connected to the food we eat. We don’t pick up our box at the farm, but every year we get to visit. I would love visiting the farm every week to pick up, especially if it was just down the road!

Photo by NikiSublime

Some CSAs allow you to really get involved, like Kristin T.‘s farm (a year-round CSA):

“My husband and I do a workshare, so we are at the farm together for one and a half hours every Saturday doing a variety of farm-y things. In exchange, we get half off the weekly price of the harvest box. I love getting delicious, organic, local produce for our family. Actually working in the fields pulling weeds with your bare hands brings a whole new appreciation for the food you are eating! As far as how we eat, I’ve learned to eat more simply and just enjoy the flavors of our veggies without feeling the need to add in a bunch of extra stuff.”

One of the other most common threads among members seems to be the opportunity to eat a much wider variety of produce. Many readers mentioned how CSAs have cured them of sticking to the same familiar veggies that they would normally be buying; one example is Krissa, who said,

“I’ve been using a CSA for the last year… I love it! I’ve been introduced to so many new vegetables that I would probably never have tried on my own, but have loved! I think our family eats way more fruits and veggies due to being in a CSA. It’s also taught my kids more about different types of produce, and it’s a fun outing each week (or every other week) to pick up our box.”

In addition to variety of produce, Shenna shares how her CSA has a variety of options as well:

“I like my CSA for several reasons: it is all local and organic, they deliver TO my door, I can schedule the deliveries as often as I need them (I do every other week and can cancel a delivery without payment penalty if I’ll be out of town), they have several different styles of boxes to choose from (small family, large family, mostly fruit, etc) and I can see a few days ahead on their website what will be in the box to help with my meal planning.

As much as I would love a weekly farm visit, I must say home delivery would sure be convenient! Our CSA doesn’t offer that but they do offer several pickup locations throughout the county which is great– ours is just a couple of miles away. I also take advantage of the list my CSA sends out a few days in advanced of what I’ll be getting, which greatly helps with meal planning.

Photo by Liz (perspicacious.org)

A few caveats…

In addition to recalling all the benefits, there are some things to consider about being a CSA member as well. It’s important to remember that due to the great variety of vegetables you’ll be receiving, it may challenge and/or change your cooking and meal-planning significantly.

Christine makes a great point about this:

“My caution is that it takes a lot of time to belong to a CSA. Not the pickup, but the meal planning and recipe trying. Jerusalem artichoke? Not on my usual grocery list. Beet greens? Didn’t know what to do with those either. So there’s a lot of experimenting and trying new things and looking up recipes, but this also means that cooking and prep and cleanup take more time.”

Christine and Anne also both mentioned another important caveat: being aware of unique life circumstances. Christine said, “It’s just not something to sign up for during a major life change (don’t plan to give birth and then cook from your CSA 2 weeks later). It also means it’s hard to just have a week where you don’t cook. Then your veggies go bad. No fun.”

And Anne agreed:

“I will never do a CSA again during any season when we have an infant! Fresh food has to be tended to immediately, and there are some weeks when I do not want to spend the time shucking peas, or cleaning and trimming greens, or putting up salsa before my 6 pounds of fresh tomatoes go bad.”

In my opinion, it’s worth the extra time, although having a bunny to feed random unused items to would make me feel a little better when something accidentally gets forgotten and goes bad. One thing that helps me is using green produce bags in my fridge to help the veggies last for the two weeks between boxes. Being diligent about using everything up in a timely manner is definitely my biggest challenge.

My farm has been great about skipping boxes when necessary though. I’ve done it a couple of times– once when we had a new baby and I knew we’d have a lot of friends and family helping out with meals, and not a lot of home cooking done, and again when we were traveling and would miss a box pick-up. I simply prearranged skipping the box, and my farm added that box on to the end of my subscription.

Dealing with real people is a great bonus to belonging to a CSA… as if the delicious real, seasonal food wasn’t enough!

Thanks everyone for chiming in with your experiences. If you didn’t before, feel free to tell us about your CSA here in the comments. Have these readers’ comments inspired you to join a CSA or taught you something new?

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7 Comments

  1. renee @ FIMBY

    The greatest benefit by far for our family is knowing the farmer and building community and relationship. It’s not just about the veggies and the “organic-ness” of it all. It’s about people.

    We are moving and have said our goodbyes to our farmer of 6 years. J. & C. (our farmers) had us to their farmhouse for lunch to say goodbye recently. That doesn’t happen when you buy veggies from the grocery store.

    My kids have spent time every week at the farm for years. They are city kids with part “farm” in their growing up experience because of our csa. That is invaluable to me.

  2. Jessica

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I have just recently found a CSA that my husband and I have been talking about joining. These are some good thoughts!

  3. Lori

    I am thrilled to have found the perfect CSA farm for our family this year. It is close to our house, and we picked up our first box this week, which filled our fridge with wonderful fresh and organic vegetables. I love knowing how the food is grown. Our farmer, Floyd, also allows us to fish and picnic on his beautiful property! I can’t wait to catch some fish this summer to grill up with our fresh picked vegetables.
    If I sound like I am bragging, I am sorry! I am just giddy with excitement! It took me 3 years to find this farm. We came from California where everything grows so well, and we now live in an area with not much local in the market. This has been a real find.

  4. Amy J.

    We’ve just joined a CSA for the first time. I’m so excited. We’ll be receiving organic produce & eggs delivered to our door every other week. We’ll also be able to visit the farm, which will be a real treat for my girls. Living up north, we don’t start until June. Can’t wait!

  5. Breanne

    This was a great post to read! We just joined a CSA for the first time this year and already appreciate the farmer’s update emails and invitations to see the farm. We were introduced to CSAs in New Zealand and I was so excited to see one close to us.

  6. Amanda

    We signed up for our first CSA this year and so far are very happy (even though crops are a few weeks behind due to our strange spring weather in the Upper Midwest). We weren’t sure how much we would actually be getting so a friend and I are splitting a share. This is also helpful because each week we can decide what we want. Example we love kale – they do not – we took all the kale and they took something else. My friend grows her own chives so when chives were in the box we took those. This helps a little bit with cutting down on waste of things we might not eat. Our farm also has the work option for lower prices – we’re doing that too!

  7. Stacy @ Delighting in the Days

    I love the idea of being a part of a CSA. A local friend told me there is one near by that actually emails the details of what will be in that week’s box, and you can decline if you wish! I couldn’t believe that was an option. It would be nice to know that skipping a week was possible, especially when something unexpected comes up.

    I like the idea of building a relationship with the farmer. That seems as though it would make a huge impact on my children.

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