Want to save on your groceries this summer? Who doesn’t, right?
If you’re already clipping coupons, menu planning, and shopping the sales, there is still one more way you can save: join a CSA. You may not have heard of CSAs yet, but they are growing in popularity and becoming mainstream.
What Is a CSA
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Basically, you pay the farmer upfront for a share in his farm. In return, every week from June to October, he will give you a quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables, often 3/4 or 1 bushel.
Many CSAs are from farms that are local and follow organic practices, so you’re getting fresher food than you can buy at the grocery store. Often the vegetables are picked the night before or the morning of your delivery.
If you’re used to buying organic foods at the grocery store, you’ll be amazed by how much your money stretches when you purchase a share in a CSA.
How to Find a CSA
The best source to find a local CSA is to go to localharvest.org. In addition to finding farms near you, you’ll also find reviews from other customers as well as a message from the farmer himself.
You can also ask friends and family which CSA they recommend.
Don’t forget that you can feel free to ask the farmer if you can come to the farm and get a tour before signing up. Many farmers are happy to do this, and it’s nice to meet the person growing your food and see the farm itself.
Drawbacks of a CSA
There are very few drawbacks to a CSA, but the two that I can think of are important.
First, you have to pay upfront. This can be hard for some families. For instance, we signed up for a family size CSA. The cost is $850 for 19 weeks of delivery. I know that we’ll get much more produce than we would if we spent that same money at the grocery store buying organics produce. However, coming up with the $850 by May 1st when we won’t even begin to get the food until June 8th was hard on our tight budget.
Second, you take a risk with the farmer. If a natural disaster like a tornado or a flood occurs and the farm is wiped out, you won’t be getting any produce. Of course, this is rare, but it is a risk.
Last year the drought hit our CSA hard. While they were able to deliver vegetables to us every week, the amount we got was less than we would have if there hadn’t been a drought. We also got little variety in our basket because some of the crops couldn’t survive the drought. We had more beets than we knew what to do with because the beets somehow thrived.
If eating local, in season and organic is important to you, there’s no better way to save money than joining a CSA. We buy the largest share we can so we can freeze the surplus and have it for the fall and winter months.