CSAs: Which one is right for me?

Farmer Elizabeth & Magali, volunteer, packing bags of veggies for FarmBucks members.  Photo by Dianne Bunis

Farmer Elizabeth & Magali, volunteer, packing bags of veggies for FarmBucks members.
Photo by Dianne Bunis

New Years resolutions for better diets coincide with the long, cold months when we crave the delicious abundance of local farms. On the dark, cold nights of January you may find yourself perusing farm websites, thinking about joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to help the farmer and to commit yourself to eating local, fresh vegetables. The choices can be overwhelming, so here are a few tips for choosing the right CSA for your family:

Convenience – Where and when do you pick up your share? Is the location convenient (on your way home from work, near your house).  Is the timing convenient? If you do a lot of food prep on the weekends, then look for pickup late in the week or over the weekend. If you cook nightly, then a pickup any day would work for you.

Value – Honestly, will you eat everything in your share? Farmers can be generous, especially with early spring greens and crops like kale. If you like these crops (or whatever is in abundance the year you join!) then you’ll be fine. If you struggle to eat one bunch of kale per week, then you might waste a lot of food.

Adventurous Palate – Do you like to try new foods? Expect a wider range of ‘normal’ in the flavors, looks, and varieties of your CSA vegetables. You may find there are vegetables you typically avoid at the grocery store but really enjoy when they are eaten fresh.

Cooking skills – Traditional CSAs do require a commitment to cooking. Depending on the condition and quantity of vegetables, you may need a few hours each week to clean and prep your vegetables. Allow time for freezing, drying, or otherwise preserving the excess.

Seasonal travels – Are you home all summer or do you spend a month at a time at a vacation home? When traveling you either forfeit your share or you can ask a friend to pick it up. If you anticipate missing 20% of the pickups, calculate that into the value of the share. Farms are also offering more diverse ‘shares,’ including fall, winter and spring shares, flexible shares that don’t require pick up each week, etc.

Connection to the Farm – Part of the fun of joining a CSA can be knowing where and how your food is grown. Some customers like to visit the farm each week to see where the food is grown, others appreciate the convenience of having the shares delivered to a nearby pickup location.

Contents – Would you like your CSA share to include just vegetables or everything you eat for the week? Few (if any) farms can provide everything you eat in a week, but there are aggregators who are buying from local farms and allowing you to choose what you want, essentially grocery shopping for you from diverse farms. You may also consider supporting several farms that offer different products. For example, you can get weekly vegetable shares most of the year, seasonal fruit shares (mostly late summer/fall), meat shares are often picked up once a month, and milk or dairy shares would offer a weekly pickup or delivery. There are even grain/bean shares that offer a years supply of grains in the late fall.

Here are a few sites that help you find local farms and CSAs:

http://www.localharvest.org/

http://theorganicfoodguide.com/

http://massnrc.org/farmlocator/map.aspx?Type=CSA

Finding a CSA that is a good fit for your lifestyle is essential to maximizing the value and enjoyment!

If you would like to join our CSA, Fat Moon FarmBucks, visit us online to learn more.

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About Fat Moon

Elizabeth is farmer, weeder, and owner of Fat Moon Farm in Westford, MA. Fat Moon sells locally grown vegetables and meat and hosts events that promote healthy lifestyles. Her favorite place is in the field at the farm and second favorite place is on a bike. Follow on Twitter @FatMoonFarmer
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