Quick facts about Community-Supported Agriculture
- Buying local strengthens the community you live in. By joining a CSA through a share, you are supporting smaller, local farmers.
- As a shareholder, you take on the same risks as the farmer. This could be a pro or con. If there's a bounty, you reap the extra benefits produce style. (Well, in theory at least if not in actual reality...honestly...I think many farms just sell the excess for profit). If a crop fails due to lack of rain and sun or pests destroy the field, they'll be less crop to divide among the shareholders and perhaps none at all.
- It's not just the weather that impacts what and how much produce you'll get. It's farm management. A poorly run farm is a huge problem. Laborers may "forget" to plant certain crops that year or harvest a crop when it's past its prime.
- On average, you'll be receiving produce in the range of 20-22 weeks out of the year.
- Memberships are paid in full or in installments. Sometimes membership forms are mandated by the farm. Neither is it unusual to pay 100% upfront ~ before you receive a single bean!
- There are full share and half share options available with the full share options intended for larger families. Typically, the full share is the best bang for your buck being comparatively cheaper than the half. If you are buying just for yourself then doing the half share option makes the most sense. Or a single person should go in with another single person and take turns picking up the loot!
- My sister is part of a CSA that requires the shareholders to do some manual labor by plucking some of their own items like herbs and flowers. If you choose not to pick, you don't get any of the spoils.
- Some farms divide their fruits from veggies and summer crops from winter ones in their CSA shares.
- It's convenient when a farm sends you an email or posts the crops you'll be receiving for the week on their website or Facebook page. When they do this ahead of the actually pick-up day it certainly helps with meal planning!
- You usually have to go in person once a week to pick up your produce. So if you are busy, on vacation, or just can't make it on that specific day and time, you will most likely loose your share for the week.
- Some farms sell only their veggie shares as part of the co-op and charge extra for the fruit shares. Do your research before deciding on the farm to team up with.
- There are only so many shares available. Once they're gone. You're out of luck!
- It's possible to join a CSA or farm co-op that allows you in on the decision making process, like what crops to plant. How fun is that?
Who should consider partnering with a CSA or food co-op....
- Urban dwellers who can't grow everything they need or want due to lack of space.
- Individuals who believe that knowing exactly where their food comes from is important.
- Super busy people consumed with work, kids or other time obligations that want fresh and healthy produce.
- Big families! Cheaper by the dozen...right!
- A big benefit of a CSA is that your vegetables are ultra-fresh when you pick them up. Many harvest the day of pick-up or the day before.
- Those who desire fresh food (and hopefully organic) keeping in mind that not all CSA's offer 100% organic and chemical-free produce. You'll have to do your research and ask. Keep in mind that earning "organic status" is tough so also seek farms that are sustainable. Equally good they employ organic practices just the same.
- People who like and enjoy to eat produce that's in season.
- If you have kids, it's a great opportunity to let them help harvest and learn more about where their food comes from.
- If you can find a farm co-op that allows you to choose what you take. For example, a vegan doesn't have much use for meat and eggs so if you can opt out of those items, you can still make the partnership work.
- The flip side of choice is that you'll be encouraged to sample foods that you've never had before. But this might help you discover a new favorite! Garlic scapes anyone? They are scrumptious.
- Washing and hand scrubbing hard-to-clean-produce is a big drag on me! I'm talking potatoes, carrots and lettuce. Homegrown is all good and well, but when I see bugs crawling out of my salad and munch on a potato still etched in dirt, I feel all icky inside. Many farms do the washing for you. (You should also wash again at home, but the pre-wash is a big deal).
- You don't have the space to garden, but you still like to get your hands dirty in the soil. Some co-ops require you to work as part of the agreement. Other ones will allow you to choose to work or not. Some will even accept some manual labor in lieu of a small portion of the subscription cost.
Who should skip the CSA in favor of growing or buying from a store...
- People who love to garden and grow and don't need the extra "help."
- You hate vegetables and won't eat them let alone take the time to wash and chop them up! Fast food is your middle name.
- Those with ample space and time to grow.
- A subscription to a CSA can be expensive, it's not the same as buying from a roadside stand where you can still score peppers for a quarter.
- Individuals who know exactly what they'll eat and won't eat....many times you don't have a choice in the food you get.....like my 7-year-old has learned to say "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit"
- If you're not too adventurous when it comes to fruits and veggies, the CSA movement may not be for you! Bok choy. Radishes. Turnips. Crazy herbs. Leeks. You need to be willing to try new foods or risk the waste.
- Maybe you're that person who doesn't care where your food comes from and just wants to buy what's cheapest. This is where ALDI's comes in handy. And much of their food is organic while their pricing super competitive.
- If you are away much of the summer and not able to pick up your produce, a membership is probably not for you. You loose out on what you are unable to pick up.
- This is because the food is not arriving on your doorstep. It can be a bit of a drive to get it. (Although they may meet you halfway...see pricing below).
- At a grocery store, you can shop on any day and time that suits your schedule and needs. A share does not work like this. You are given a specific day and typically a 2-4 hour window on that day in which you must pick up your food. Failure to show is your loss. (Some farms donate left produce to local food banks...others sell it to make more profit).
- It's also true that at a grocery store you get to choose exactly the food you want to eat that night or for the week. So you may typically really enjoy zucchini and salad. But if you're not "in the mood" for that specific produce when it's peaking, you might be stuck eating it anyhow.
- Many grocery stores have added a locally grown produce section, so a CSA share may seem overkill for you.
- Last insight, you won't be able to get produce year-round. Even in the very best of scenarios, you're looking at a range from May to November. This means finding other ways to obtain food the rest of the year.
What types and how much produce should I expect?
Here is a sampling of what she gets to choose from for the week. Not too shabby. Being a vegetable fan, I would eat or attempt to eat everything on this list. But I can appreciate that you get some choice here! Ten items is a great amount of produce to use and the only "mandatory items" are zucchini and lettuce. Most people would agree they fall in that normal category. No risk here! So if garlic scapes aren't for you, pick something else. I also read on their website that sometimes you get twelve items.
At McCollum Farms, shares include over 50 crops and 130 varieties of vegetables, fruits and leafy greens throughout the season. There are anywhere from 10 to 20 weekly crops harvested fresh and set out in the share room. Many are heirloom varieties and unique types that fill your share with delicious aromas and color.
Pricing at McCollum Farms ~ A Market Style CSA!
There is no price change for 2017.
Weekly Full Share: 10-12 items and u-pick - $535
Weekly Half Share: 5-6 items and u-pick - $310
Every Other Week Full Share: Pick up a Full Share (10-12 items) every other week (10 weeks) and u-pick - $310
Extra Greens Share - $75 - Add to either share size for an extra bunch of greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, etc.) per week.
A Full share is $535 and serves 2-4 people with plenty of veggie sides and main ingredients. A Half share is $310 and serves 1-2 people.
The Extras Greens Share is $75 and gives you an extra bunch of greens that week, such as head lettuce, lettuce mix, spinach, kale, etc. This new share option is great for those into juicing or who enjoy salads.
How pricing works at a few other farms...
The 2017 price schedule for 22 weeks or organically-grown, season produce is such:
- Pick up option: $400 per season if you pick up your produce at the farm or from sites the immediate area
- Delivery option: $425 per season for delivery to sites in a nearby city or by participating employers.
Subscribers will pay, on average, less that $2.00 per pound for produce.
I'd say the extra $25 well be money well spent for the delivery!
Here's a second example of another farm 25 minutes from my house:
The cost of the FULL CSA membership is $600 and includes: (This is for families bigger than just 3 people)
- 20 weeks of fresh vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers
- Free choice of the vegetables as they become available weekly
- A reusable tote bag will be used for weekly pickups.
- 20% off any and all additional produce purchased at the time of your weekly pick up. This includes local fruit and more vegetables.
- The Pumpkin Pack! During the 'Fall Harvest' all family members receive their choice of one large pumpkin from our 'U' Pick pumpkin patch (up to 6 pumpkins).
The cost of a half CSA membership on this farm is $350 but is intended for only 1-3 people.