But it’s not the only way.
Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, food co-ops, CSA: what’s the difference between supporting a farmer through CSA versus the others?
Why would a person consider signing up for a CSA instead?
These are great questions. And everyone who considers joining a CSA should be asking them.
The reality is that CSA is not a good fit for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if it’s not a match for you.
The CSA customers who come back year after year are a certain kind of customer. Not a “better customer” — just a certain kind — the kind that matches the unique format of the CSA model.
Is CSA a Good Fit for You?
Before you sign up for this seasonal commitment, ask yourself these 7 questions….
Q1: Do you appreciate having quality vegetable ingredients that actually taste good?
You’re paying for that taste experience when you join a CSA.
If you’re just looking for a basic celery and carrot at the cheapest price so you can make an iceberg salad — this is not your gig.
Q2: Do you like to cook? Do you cook regularly in the summer?
While we will include plenty of salad-type vegetables that can be eaten fresh right out of the box, many of them will be best eaten in a cooked meal.
One reason people often give for being disappointed with CSA is the guilt they feel when veggies go uneaten.
Don’t let that happen to you! If you can’t see yourself regularly spending time in the kitchen, finding ways to incorporate the contents of your weekly box, then CSA might not be a good fit.
Q4: Are you willing to try new foods?
Belonging to a CSA will push you to try new foods and explore variety in your kitchen.
This means you likely will discover new veggies you love, and you might discover new veggies you don’t.
Part of the CSA experience is getting exposed to a wide variety of vegetables. We put things in your box that you may never have seen before, and we will coach you on how to cook and eat them.
If you prefer to eat a few vegetables that you already know and love – then CSA might not be right for you.
Q5: Do you need control over your menu planning?
CSA members have to learn to be flexible with their menu and make things work in the kitchen, because you often don’t know what you will get in your box until a few days before the pick up.
Some people love this spontaneity. For the decision-fatigued, it represents one less thing they have to think about.
Others will be stressed by it.
Think hard about this: Are you willing to give up some control over what goes in your box? Are you ok with us picking the contents for you?
If so, then our CSA may be a good fit for you.
If not, then you may be better off buying local food at one of the other outlets.
A very common reason for people leaving CSAs is because they didn’t get enough of the things they wanted, and too much of the things they didn’t.
While we will work hard to assemble an assortment of vegetables that work well together, in the end you will be leaving that decision up to us each week.
CSA works best for customers who see their kitchen as a creative space, and our vegetables as the “paint” for their canvas. They embrace the spontaneity required and are willing to experiment with new ingredients to make old meal templates come alive in new ways.
Q6: 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. And they don’t compare the CSA experience to grocery store prices. A large part of the value inherent in CSA are the other benefits mentioned above.
Q7: Is supporting a local farmer important to you?
Surveys show that one of the biggest reasons for joining a CSA is to support and get to know a real farmer.
As your farmers, we will lovingly grow and thoughtfully select the best of what’s available in the fields each week, specifically for the CSA. As a member, you will get first access to crops as they become available.
There’s something rewarding about knowing you are doing your part to help support a local farmer. Call it satisfying your “food conscience.”
CSA is a mechanism you can put into your weekly routine that allows you to access great-tasting food, knowing there’s a real farmer’s livelihood depending on it.
This means that you are committed to staying with a specific farmer through the entire, several-week-long CSA session, come thick or thin.
Thick, meaning that as a CSA member, you’ll get first dibs on crops as they first become available, and will also enjoy the bounty as they reach their peak.
And thin, meaning that you’ll share in the risk inherent in an endeavor that is subject to the weather the way farming is. We may encounter extreme weather events, like hail, that destroy our crops, or drought that seriously sets them back. If that happens, your weekly share may be leaner than normal.
As your farmers, we do our utmost to prepare for and mitigate those risks. But they do happen sometimes, and it’s important that you understand that if they do, you might not receive as much food as originally planned. But it’s also important to know that being a CSA member is as much about having your farmer’s back as it is about getting the full financial value of your share.
This commitment goes both ways, though. As a member of our CSA, we want to cultivate a connection with you. To learn your name, show you the farm, tell you about what we do and how. To tell you the story of your food.
Ultimately, this connection, this experience is a large part of what you’re paying for when you join the CSA.
BONUS QUESTION #8: Will you be out of town a lot this summer?
If you’ll be out of town travelling much this summer, then you shouldn’t sign up for our CSA.
Our CSA isn’t the kind that credits your account or holds your boxes for several days. So if you have to miss your pick-up several times, it probably doesn’t make financial sense to sign up for our CSA.
How’d you do?
Did you pass the quiz?
Remember, CSA is just one model out there for getting fresh farmer food onto your table. For those who value the story, the journey, and the farmer relationship behind the food, it can be a really great option.
But there’s no shame in passing on CSA and instead buying weekly “a la carte” from our farm stand. That may in fact better fit your needs. As with many things in life, expectations determine how happy you are with your CSA experience. To set you up for success, make sure your expectations align with the philosophy of CSA before you commit.