What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a farm-sharing program in which consumers invest in a local farm and receive a weekly share of the crops. Ideally, CSA farmers receive an upfront investment, which allows them to concentrate on growing better crops without the additional hassle of selling their product. For consumers, investing in a CSA farm represents an opportunity to save money by buying directly from the farmer instead going to a farmer’s market or produce stand. CSA programs are not for everyone though and you should consider the pros and cons before you join.
Why You May Want to Join Community Supported Agriculture Programs
- You get freshly grown fruits and vegetables weekly that contain more nutrients than those that have been shipped to a farmer’s market or a grocery store.
- Organic foods directly from a farm are free of additives and preservatives.
- If the farm has a particularly good crop, you could end up receiving large baskets of food for less money than you would pay at a store.
- CSA programs are good for the local economy. The farmer receives more money for their product than they would selling it elsewhere and in turn spends that money back in the community.
- You will eat healthier. Receiving your regular weekly share of produce practically guarantees that you will include more fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Because the farm picks what goes into your food box, you will be exposed to a wider variety of produce and you will be more likely try new foods.
- New foods means learning new recipes, so you’ll expand your cooking skills.
Drawbacks of CSA Programs
- Almost all CSA farms force you to sign a contract that lasts anyway from a season to a full year. Once you sign the contract, you can either pick up your weekly share of food or forfeit it and lose money.
- You have no control over what the farm grows. If the farmer grows a large amount of tomatoes or radishes, you could end up getting the same foods repeatedly.
- If you are not available to pick up your food on the weekly delivery day, you lose your food.
- If your weekly basket contains fruits and vegetables that you don’t like, you’ll be likely to waste them thereby reducing the return on your investment.
- If the weather is bad during the growing season, you may not receive enough food to be worth what you are paying on your contract.
- You never know from week to week what your food delivery will be, so it makes planning meals and shopping more difficult.
Some people save money buying from a CSA farm, some people lose money. It is best to consider your own personal eating habits carefully before making a decision. People who love fruits and vegetables are likely to be very happy while those that don’t may feel like they are not getting their money’s worth.