A couple of years ago I was first introduced to the idea of CSAs – Community Supported Agriculture. I thought it sounded like something I might like to join. Instead I quickly forgot all about our conversation (I probably got distracted by a change in conversation topic…or a shiny object. You know, those things happen often when you’re me.)
Fast forward a year or two: more people were talking about CSAs. This time there must not have been any shiny objects around, because I started researching local farms, and decided I wanted to buy local. I liked the idea of supporting the local economy, getting fresher food, and not supporting transporting food thousands of miles which is what I end up doing when I shop at the grocery store. It was late summer and tomato season, and I wanted to give canning a try, so I stopped by several farm stands, buying tomatoes while getting a feel for each farm. I found several great farms, with excellent quality produce, but all too far away to visit weekly as a CSA member. I visited one farm stand in my town, but was unimpressed with the quality of the produce for the prices. By this time it was late fall and I stopped focusing on fresh produce.
Last month, a friend mentioned CSAs again, and told me she was looking into Garman Farm in Middletown, RI. I had found them last summer and was interested, but hadn’t had a chance to visit or try their produce. I investigated a bit more and liked what I saw. This week, on Garman Farm’s Facebook page, I saw that they’re advertising sign-ups for their 2016 summer/fall Farm Share/CSA program.
What is the cost to participate in a CSA?
Everything looked great, but something was still holding me back. Maybe because it seemed expensive? $499 for 20 weeks, 7 items per week, comes out to $3.56 per item. $25 per week. At a glance, that seemed like a lot. I can buy a head of lettuce or some peppers for a couple dollars or less. But fresh fruit (watermelon, berries) is often much more than $4 per unit. And at Garman Farm, everything is organic. My comparisons were to mostly non-organic foods, since I am still in the process of shifting to organic. Ok, thinking about the price tag on organic, this is looking more cost effective. Next, I looked at how much I was spending on groceries in an average week. I was guessing about $25. So if I spent that $25 just on produce through this farm share, everything else I bought would be additional money out of my pocket that I wasn’t currently spending. I was starting to lean away from the CSA again. But because I am a nerd, I track all of my purchases, so I was able to find out the real answer. I was actually spending over $50/week on average. And I can’t tell you the last time I brought home 7 different types of produce in 1 week. So if I spend half of my current weekly grocery total on the CSA produce, I still have $25/week to fill in with other food. Plus, if I fill up on all this produce, maybe I will actually be able to spend less on other items. I was still hemming and hawing about whether or not I should join.
What made me decide to join a CSA
A few days ago, after snacking too much on unhealthy treats (hey, it’s Girl Scout cookie season, how am I supposed to say no to Thin Mints!?) I decided that I needed to get back on a whole foods healthier eating plan. I went to the grocery store and bought a big bunch of “grown in USA” kale. Neither organic nor locally grown kale was available, but I took the best I could get. I chopped it all up and tossed it in a huge pot with an inch of water and some garlic, simmered for a while, then dumped a big pile on my plate.
I added some lemon juice and dug in. Oh. My. Gosh. It was delicious! Crunchy, slightly sweet. What? Kale, sweet? No, it’s supposed to be bitter, and a little tough. Maybe stringy too. How did I like this stuff in the past? All I had ever eaten before was pre-chopped, sold in a plastic bag. And I used to think that crap was good. But now I know what kale is supposed to taste like. It was good!
And at that moment that I decided that I needed to join a CSA. I need to have that field to plate fresh food. It’s worth the extra time to prepare, the extra time to drive a little farther away to the farm, and the higher quality food is worth paying a little more per piece of produce. On top of that, by joining a CSA, I am supporting something I believe in – helping to support the local economy, supporting locally and organically grown food, and supporting my health. This year, I am trying out Community Supported Agriculture. My registration for Garman Farm’s 2016 Farm Share/CSA is in the mail!