CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” and it is one way that supporters feel they can get ‘transparent, real food’ directly from the farmer.
So what’s the difference from supporting a local farmer through a CSA or picking up their food at a road-side stand, or the local Farmers’ Market?
Everyone who considers joining a CSA should ask themselves if it’s really right for them, because the reality is, it just isn’t a right fit for everyone. Here are the six questions designed to see if CSA is right for you.
1. Is the farmer-consumer relationship important to you? (Do you want to support a farmer?)
- The C in CSA is you, and most CSAs focus on the consumer-farmer relationship nearly as much as they do on the vegetables.
- CSA members want to be able to shake the hand of the farmer who feeds them.
- There is something rewarding about knowing that your farmer family is depending on your support, while at the same time you’re putting great tasting food into your weekly routine.
- This means you are committed to staying with a specific farmer throughout the entire season through thick or thin.
- Part of this includes the risk that the farmer is taking. God might send too much rain, or sun, bugs or disease and a particular crop might not be able to make it into your box that season.
- On the other hand, there might be a bumper crop of tomatoes or cucumbers and you’ll be up to your ears in cucurbits.
- CSA members and the farmers live with these realities every day.
It’s as much about the customer having the farmer’s back as it is about getting the full financial advantage of their share.
THAT IS HUGE
- But it goes both ways too…your farmer will try to cultivate a connection with you too, this means that:
- They learn your names and try to make the big CSA feel like a family.
- They might plan events to get you to come to the farm and spend time with them.
- They might try to add value to your life by giving you tips, recipes, and health coaching along the way.
- They want you to succeed at eating their food.
You don’t have to take advantage of all their offers, but if you do, it becomes a richer experience for you and the farmer. The relationship is part of what you’re paying for.
2. Do you value having quality vegetables that actually taste good?
- Tasteless tomatoes in the winter?
- If you’re a CSA prospect, then you know what I’m talking about.
- Taste matters to foodies, because you know that if you’re going to put together a great meal in your kitchen, it will take more than skills.
- It’s the ingredients.
- The second most important quality with our CSA Masters (those who stick with their CSA) is that they really love food. Real food.
- Food that is grown in quality soil tastes like it should.
- If you really love cooking and value taste, then you’ll love being part of a CSA because you’ll be getting high quality real food that will make dinner feel like an event.
- That taste experience is part of what you’re paying for.
If you’re just looking for a basic celery and cheap carrot so you can make an iceberg salad at the cheapest price, this ain’t for you.
3. Are you willing to try new foods? (Seriously?)
- CSAs will push you to try new varieties and flavors in your kitchen.
- You will find new varieties that you love, and you will find new varieties that you hate.
- Part of the CSA experience is being exposed to a wide variety of vegetable cultivars in your box. We put vegetables into your box that you may never have seen before, but we plan to help you learn how to use it.
- OK, let’s face it. You probably wouldn’t purposely put a Kohlrabi into your box.
- (You would? Then CSA is definitely right for you!)
It’s all part of the goal to grow with food diversity, to teach our community (and our kids) how to eat with the seasons again. If you want to learn to be more creative in your kitchen, sometimes you have to push yourself a little.
4. Do you need more control in your menu planning?
- You need to think this over, sometimes you won’t know what’s coming in your box until just a few days before you get it. CSA members need to be able to be flexible and work with what they get.
- Some people love spontaneity and being creative. Others might get really stressed out over it.
Are you willing to give up control over what goes in your box, or do you need to live strictly by your plan?
- If your menu plan says you’re going to have spinach lasagna on Thursday, and then there’s not any spinach in your box that week, will it upset you if you have to go elsewhere to supplement your box?
- If so, then you might be better off buying from the Farmers’ Market stand or supermarket.
- This is one of the main reasons x-members are not still members.
- CSA works best for those who see their kitchens as their creative space, and our vegetables as the paint for their creations.
They can handle the required spontaneity, and the excitement of seeing their old meal plans come alive in new ways.
5. Are you willing to work at this CSA way of eating? (It is more of a marathon than a sprint.)
- It takes time to see results. I’ve heard CSA Masters say that it took them 2-3 years before they learned how to use up everything in their box consistently.
- You might waste a little food at the front end of your learning curve.
- Start with an adventurous spirit and be easy on yourself if you waste some of your first boxes. It can be hard to get the hang of it.
- There will be weeks when you start out with all the best intentions of using up your box to the fullest possibility like a super-chef, only to end up eating your broccoli raw with ranch dip.
You might sometimes feel like you’re failing to change the way you eat as you planned.
- Set realistic goals the first year and work your way through it. We plan to add some help plans along the way.
Your probably going to waste some food, especially during the first year.
- This is a hard reality for some to face.
- Maybe you’re didn’t get home in time to make dinner because the day was crazy…(so the veggies spoil.)
- Or you’re running all week being a chauffeur for the kids and end up with take-out…(so the veggies rot.)
- But if you are committed to learning how, you can do it.
- It may take a few seasons until you’ve got it down.
Are you willing to put in the work?
6. Are you looking for a ‘good deal’? Are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?
- People who are committed to the CSA model, don’t look to their membership as a ‘bargain’ or a ‘deal’.
- And they don’t compare the CSA experience to the grocery store price table.
- That is important, read it again.
- It is totally understandable to ask “How much does it cost?” then to consider the pros and cons.
- Supporting a CSA financially is not only about doing a cost analysis to compare each vegetable in your box to that at Costco.
The added value in our vegetables is the stories they are telling.
- Not just the story of growing, harvesting and the struggles it faced to get to your table.
- Not just the story of the farmer and how you helped them live out their calling to the land.
Each vegetable is also part of your story.
- A showcase of your journey with food.
- The star attraction in your quest to master your own kitchen and turn out meals that you can be proud of.
- No grocery store can give you that.
CSA customers appreciate this added value and are willing to pay a premium for it.
So if you’re telling yourself, “that’s more than I’d pay at _______”, then maybe it’s time to hit the ‘pause’ button.
How did it go? Did you pass our quiz?
Remember, the CSA model is just one way of getting farm fresh vegetables onto your table. If you value the journey, the story, the relationship with the farmer behind the food, it can be a great opportunity to change the way you eat forever!
But there is no shame in saying ‘no thanks’ and purchasing your food from the local Farmers’ Market. We do that too, we are at the Newport Farmers’ Market in season on Saturday mornings.
In fact it may be a better fit for your situation.
We want you to succeed, so make sure your expectations line up with the philosophy behind CSA before you commit.
If you think you’re ready, here are the next steps to take:
- Here is our Tell me more link.
- We’ll send you a confirmation e-mail.
- Mail in your payment. Payment details will be included in the confirmation e-mail. Optional payment plan is available. (Discount if paid by May 1st)
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