Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Perfectly Practical #97 - Knowing if a CSA Is Right for You



Tender Greens, Green & Purple Kohl Rabi, White & Red Scallions, Broccoli, 2 types of Lettuces, and Easter Egg Radishes all from last week's basket

The New Year usually drags with it the previous year's resolution of eating healthier.  We all start out with good intentions...and gym memberships.  People get fired up about a new way of eating, Organic Whole Food Paleo Fruitarian Juice Fasts and such.  So it's totally understandable that CSA enrollment would go up at the beginning of the year.  But is it the right choice for you?

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm is an agricultural set up whereby a farmer or group of farmers sells stakes or "shares" in their farms.  The participants or "shareholders" in turn receive vegetables as "dividends." 

I mentioned before that I couldn't boil water when we got married and it wasn't until we moved to J.O.E. (that's Jolly Olde England) that I learned how to make anything at all that could be considered edible.  We always loved eating food but it wasn't until we found a CSA there that I actually started loving to cook food. 

We have participated in CSAs both here and abroad so obvious we feel it is worth it.  Here's a list of pros & cons for you to decide for yourself.

Benefits: 
  • Healthy - Let's just go ahead and state the obvious shall we?     No chemicals or preservatives or waxes on this produce.
  • Seasonal - I believe God designed our bodies to most efficiently absorb the goodness from the foods that grow seasonally.  Why else would the food grow in seasons instead of growing all year round?  (Watch there be some botanist out there with the answer to that rhetorical question.)  ;) 
  • Fresh - You are getting vegetables at their peak ripeness. 
  • Low Food Miles - The veggies are picked that day or maybe the day before you get them.  The food miles are low since most CSAs only have a customer radius of about 50 or 60 miles or so.
  • Stimulating the Local Economy - I like buying locally when I can and I know that the farmer also buys his supplies locally so it goes even further than just my purchasing decisions.
  • Sink full of greens
  • Green Option - The local flora loves CSAs since they pour richness into the ground and the leftovers either get composted or given to the local fauna. (The cows in the pasture next to our CSA love the spent rutabagas especially.)
  • Networking - Because generally likeminded people are a part of CSAs, you learn about other local folks who may have bee hives, or chickens, or grass fed cattle, that you may have the opportunity to buy into as well.
  • Creativity - Eating seasonally does mean that there is some amount of creativity called for in the kitchen. I really enjoy the challenge and the expansion to our palates that it brings.
  • Teachable Moments - I love the relationship between the land and the farmer and my food.  I love the smell of my vegetables with soil on them.  I love that my child knows that lettuce comes from the ground and not from a bag on the grocery store's shelf.

Drawbacks: 
  • Monotonous - Because you are eating seasonally, whatever is growing at that time is what you get in your basket.  If something has a particularly long growing season, then you will be eating that item for weeks on end and you may be tired of eating greens or radishes or whatever the item is. 
  • Time Sensitive - The veggies in your basket are super fresh but to keep them that way, you need to deal with them immediately and sometimes that is inconvenient.
  • Time Consuming - Preparing the veggies takes a good while especially when you are dealing with...
  • Remember this guy?
  • Dirt, Bugs, & Critters - Engineer always says that no matter how well I wash my lettuce, there is still some grit in the salad and he is always the lucky recipient of it on his plate.  And I may have had one or two instances where a tiny caterpillar goes crawling across my plate.  During the summer especially, my kitchen is like a menagerie of ladybugs, various beetles, lacewings, and even that guy pictured above after I get my vegetable buckets.
  • Inconvenient - Farming is a very volatile business.  You are trusting of the weather and the quality of the seed and that feral hogs don't come crashing through your patch.  That being said, you don't know what crops will take off and which ones will flounder.  That means that the shareholder can't always meal plan around what's going to be in the box or even if you will get a box that week.  
  • Forces You Into the Kitchen - If you aren't great in the kitchen, then it can be a problem. If you have never seen romanesco, kohl rabi, celeriac, etc. then you may not know what to do with them and may not have time to learn.  What happens if you have a houseful of picky eaters?  There could be a lot of waste involved if no one eats what's been prepared. 
  • Expensive (Potentially) - If your family is happy to eat vegetarian meals then a CSA is probably not that expensive in comparison to buying Organic food in the grocery store.  However, if there is lots of waste then a CSA will be a very expensive option.  Most CSAs will let you buy a 1/2 share or go in with a friend on a whole share.

The compost pile will be happy.

Only you can decide if a CSA is right for your family.  We choose to participate in our CSA because to us, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks...even when an anole scares the ever loving life out of you.

This is part of Works for Me Wednesday.

5 comments:

  1. Excellent points from both sides! Because we grow so much, do tons of canning and fill the freezer, a CSA is not for us right now. I do use the stands at local farms to pick up just what I need. There are so many of them where we live that it's never hard to find.

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    1. You are very fortunate to be in that situation. It's also such a blessing to your family that you can and "put up" for later.

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  2. I was thinking about this today!!! I've not had luck with finding them locally in Tyler! I asked the women at the farmer's market even! I have it on my list to call The Granary tomorrow...suggestions?

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    1. The granary should be able to give you information. I think there is one out Gladewater/Gilmer way and mine in Longview delivers to Tyler for a fee or you could pick up in Longview.

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    2. Awesome! Thanks :) hopefully my day slows down long enough for me to call before they close at 4 lol.

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Your turn! Let me know what perfectly practical comments you have.

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