6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a CSA
"CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you're purchasing a weekly “share” of vegetables from a specific farmer." - justfood.org/csa
A CSA is an avenue for you to put into your weekly routine that will give you access to great tasting food and is one of the many ways you can support your local farmer.
But it is not the only way...
What’s the difference between supporting a local farmer through a CSA, or farmers market, or roadside stand, or any other local source?
Why would a person consider joining a CSA?
These are great questions anyone who is looking into joining a CSA should be asking.
A CSA is an extremely rewarding avenue to get your vegetables but it is not necessarily the “right fit” for everyone.
Before you commit yourself to a specific farmer for a whole season, ask yourself these 6 questions…
Question 1: Is the relationship to the actual farmer important to you? (Do you want to support a local farmer)
Effective CSA’s focus on the farmer-customer relationship as much as on the product
More often than not, people join CSA’s because it is important to them to shake the hand that feeds them. They want to know who their farmer is. There is something rewarding knowing that with your membership, you are supporting the livelihood of your farmer.
This means you’re committed with the farmer for a whole season, through thick and thin. Mother Nature rules and can be super finicky. She can take out crops in an instant. On the flip side, you may get a bumper crop of squash or cucumbers, then you’ll be swimming in them!
CSA members know this and embrace it. This is the way real farming works.
Their motivation for supporting the CSA is not only about getting the full financial value of their membership but also to have the farmer’s back; knowing he is doing everything he can to ensure your satisfaction.
This farmer-customer relationship goes both ways…
Will learn your name to make sure this “Big CSA” feels more like a small community.
They will plan events so you can engage with the farm.
They will tell you the story of their produce.
They will teach you the best ways to eat their food so you can become a master at the CSA
They want you to succeed at the CSA as much as you want them to succeed at the farming.
This relationship experience is part of what you are paying for in a CSA arrangement.
Question 2: Do you value having high quality vegetable ingredients that actually taste good?
I’ve been asked at an organic grocery store “how do these tomatoes taste compared to the everyday run of the mill grocery stores?” My answer was “No tomato taste as good as a homegrown tomato.”
If you’re a CSA prospect, you know this all too well. Taste matters to foodies. A real foodie knows that the quality and taste of vegetables are just as important as how you prepare them.
CSA Masters (those who stick with CSA) love food! Real food that is!
Once you get the hang of a CSA, you’ll become a food snob! You’ll know what good quality vegetables will taste like and will not be able to fully enjoy store bought veggies anymore.
If you love real food and the quality, you’ll love being in a CSA.
Question 3: Are you willing to try new foods? (Like really try?)
CSAs will push you to try new foods and explore varieties in your kitchen.
Let’s look at this further. You will find some you LOVE and some you will NOT love as much!
There will be veggies in your box that you have never seen before. We know that you would never purposefully put a kohlrabi in your shopping cart (or would you...if so you’ll definitely click with CSA) but don’t worry, we will teach you how to eat them!
It’s all part of the great goal of the CSA, to increase your diversity and teaching our community (and our kids) to eat seasonally again.
If you want to be better in the kitchen, you’ll have to push yourself to try new ingredients.
Question 4: Do you need control in your menu planning?
I LOVE meal planning services!! They are super great, easy to use, and you get to try a new plate each meal. But...I find them super difficult in the fact that they are not seasonal. They really try but they have to cater to everyone in the country, which our seasons are totally different from each other!! Plus, I hate when a meal calls for a small piece of something but then that’s it, all I needed was that small piece and not the rest of this huge whatever, wasting it.
CSA members have to learn to be flexible with their meal planning. There is a saying I say to my kids “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
Often times you will not know what is going to be in your CSA box until a couple of days before. You’ll have to be willing to make things work in your kitchen.
You’ll have to think hard on this…
If you can and are willing to be flexible, this is great!
But if you are really wanting a certain thing on a certain day that requires something not in your box, it may not work for you.
This is a big reason why people don’t stick with CSAs. They will say that they didn’t get enough of the things they wanted and too much of the things they didn’t. This is part of eating seasonally. If you want hard core control over your menu, a farmers market or roadside stand might be better for you. And that’s ok!
CSA works best for customers who see their kitchen as a creative space and our vegetables as the “paint” for their canvas.
They can handle the spontaneity and can make old meals templates come alive in new ways.
Question 5: Are you will to work at eating the CSA way? Patience; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
CSA takes time to see the results.
This means that you will waste food on the front end as you go through your learning curve.
Come into this experience with an adventurous spirit and go easy on yourself.
You may go into to it all Gordon Ramsey style but then some weeks you may just be eating carrots and ranch dip. Realize that this is your goal, to become better with cooking and eating all your vegetables (I sound like my mom!).
There may be times where life gets so hectic and you may be eating out like crazy because you have to chauffeur 3 kids around (so the veggies rot).
Like all paradigm shifts, if takes time to develop new habits and learn how to eat reasonably.
If you’re committed to learning, you can do it!
Question 6: Are you looking for a “deal?” Are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?
People who fully embrace the CSA model don’t look for their membership to be a “deal” or a bargain. They don’t compare the CSA experience to the grocery store price table.
It is totally understandable to ask “how much does it cost?” And to weigh the pros and cons. But supporting a CSA financially isn’t a cost analysis between our vegetables and what you get at Costco.
Our CSA and vegetables have added value because they tell a story.
Not just a story of how they grew and were harvested or how you’re supporting the local farm.
These vegetables are telling YOUR unfolding story!
They showcase your journey with food. How you will become better with eating and being healthier. How your kitchen skills will rival a 5 star restaurant. How your kids will ask to have your food instead of eating out.
They are the starring attraction to a meal you can be proud of!
No grocery store, big or small, cheap or expensive, can give you that! CSA members appreciate this added value.
So how’d you do??
For those of you who value the story, the journey, and the farmer relationship, this is a great option for you!!
It can change the way you eat forever!
If this was not up your alley yet, that’s ok! A farmers market may be a better fit for you at this time.
We do both so we want to make sure you’re in the right fit!
If you’re ready to join our CSA, here are your next steps:
Head over to isleacrefarms.com/csa
Choose your share size and add it to your cart
Make your payment
Then we will send you what to do next!
We can’t wait to get started to helping you in your journey!