A CSA program offers independent farmers, often small (ours is a five-acre plot), an alternative way to sell their products. It can be managed by the owner of a single farm or by a group of farms that work as a cooperative. No absolute rules are governing the distance a CSA can distribute from the farm (or farms), but most are within a few hours’ drive. For example, the plot of our CSA is about 100 km from our home.
While not a requirement, most CSAs practice sustainable and environmentally responsible agriculture, planting cover crops (instead of using commercial fertilizers) to protect soil ecology and use fewer pesticides than large-scale farmers. Many are certified organic as well. And because CSAs don’t distribute over long distances, they have a smaller carbon footprint than farms that they distribute nationally.
Share Sizes And Costs
The size of the delivery depends on the size of the share. The stocks generally come in three sizes: full (three-quarters of a bushel), medium (half a bushel), and small (a quarter of a bushel). This gives shareholders some control over the amount of food they receive. For example, my CSA recommends a full share for a regular family of four or “two to three greedy vegetable eaters” in the same house.
Comparing the cost of the CSA product and the store-bought product
As a gift, my wife and I are not paying for our CSA this year. But we like it enough that we will certainly sign up next year. With that in mind, I looked at the possible savings (or costs) of our members. You can perform a similar analysis that applies to your situation, based on the CSA options and the cost of groceries in your area.
Some Examples Of Csa-inspired Meals That We Recently Enjoyed:
Sumi salad, which includes a chopped cabbage head provided by CSA and a chopped carrot provided by CSA, as well as non-CSA ingredients such as ramen noodles, almonds, apple cider vinegar, and chicken
Pumpkin frittata, a quiche-like dish that includes pumpkin, cucumber, and onion provided by CSA, plus non-CSA eggs and spices
Dinner salad, which includes leafy vegetables provided by CSA (butter lettuce, arugula) and onions, plus blue cheese and non-CSA nuts
CSA’s shares are priced so that shareholders cover the cost of food production throughout the season. Farmers who run the program set a price for each share size, as well as a target for the total number of shares sold (based on how much they can grow). Prices are not always proportional to stock sizes, as some farmers offer bulk discounts for larger stocks. And prices can vary for similar amounts of food, as many CSAs try to make a profit and set their prices accordingly. Others see themselves as providers of community service and aim only to balance.
Deliveries And Sales
For logistical simplicity, many CSAs deliver their weekly deliveries to central locations, usually community centers or daycare centers that reserve space for them. For example, we acquired our share in a nursery a few kilometers from our home. Our CSA has several other drop-off points within a short drive from us.
As a shareholder, you can specify which location you want to use. And the chosen CSA may create a new delivery location in response to shareholder demand. On the other hand, some CSAs offer door-to-door deliveries, particularly in sparsely populated areas. If you live far from a central delivery location, look for a CSA that will be delivered to your home or business.
To ensure that they have enough money available to continue during the growing season, CSAs typically offer their shares for sale before the first delivery of the year. If shares run out before the first delivery, CSA will close to new members until the following year. If the shares remain after the start of the season, CSA may continue to offer them at proportional prices. In areas with longer growing seasons, CSAs may offer partial season shares. For example, Atlanta’s Farmers’ Fresh allows its customers to pay for four weeks at a time.…