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We’ve Joined a Community Supported Agriculture Association

This spring, we’ve joined a Community Supported Agriculture association. We pre-pay a certain amount (due in the late winter since it helps buy supplies) and then get fruit and veggies from a farmer’s cooperative from May until November. It’s not quite local, but it’s not too far away and we’ve heard from friends who did this last year that the taste is vastly superior to our local grocery store’s veggies.

It’s certified organic, though I’m never sure how much that means or how much better for you it is. I think it depends on the type of food and the farmer. I doubt the veggies will be any worse for us and it’s quite possible they’ll be better.

We bought 1/2 a vegetable share and a whole fruit share (which is smaller than a vegetable share) because we’re only two people. I’m a little worried that in the richest months we’ll end up with more food than we can eat. In that case, I’ll be looking into preserving it and see if a couple nearby friends would like some.

Why We’re Doing It

1. We want to eat more fruit and veggies.

I think we already eat pretty healthily. I prepare almost all of our meals. One major meal a day has meat and the other generally has some kind of beans for protein. Even when we’re eating meat, I make it stretch (and we can both tell the difference when we’re eating elsewhere or in a restaurant).

I stretch meals using veggies and (generally) brown rice. Sometimes couscous or quinoa. I’ve become stuck in a rut, however, and I’m looking for ways to branch out. So far I’ve had some real successes and am looking forward to what I have to work with this summer.

And we almost never buy fruit. I like fruit very much, but the area we live in is rather poor and it’s reflected by our grocery store. It’s very hard to find good fruit there. We can drive farther away or even farther to the Farmer’s Market, but it seems a waste just to look for fruit. I’m really looking forward to that!

2. I need to expand my recipes.

I didn’t start cooking regularly until I got married in the summer of 2007. Even at times when I was cooking frequently for my parents, it was still my mother who came up with ideas. I just made whatever she told me to make.

Many people start cooking what their parents ate, but I’m limited by price and by not wanting to cook every night after work (my mom was a SAHM and she developed excellent cooking skills). I like recipes that make good leftovers and keep well. As I said above, I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut.

Lucky for me, we got a copy of Simply in Season as a wedding present to go with our More With Less cookbook. More With Less has been great, but I haven’t really followed the seasons in my cooking. Now that I’m going to be getting all these in-season foods, I’m hoping for a lot of help from Simply in Season.

3. We want to support the community.

Micah believes very strongly in voting with your dollar. If these people are growing better food, then we should patronize them if we’re able (and we are). We’ve heard good things—and if they don’t pan out then we won’t buy from them next year. The first year is a risk, but that’s where friends’ recommendations come in.

And I want to support this group for even more reasons. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a Mennonite. I’m not “Plain,” nor am I Old Order or even Conservative. Many of these farmers are Mennonites and Amish, and even if we’re not all the same sort, we’re all part of a community. The farming branch of our community feels a real pinch at times, family farming is not always financially successful even when the crop is good—so I want to make what difference I can.

4. Flavor.

The fresh stuff is nearly always better. We’ve already found this with farmers’ markets.

Why Not Use a Farmer’s Market?

“Because I’m lazy” isn’t a good answer, is it? Convenience is a motivator, however. There’s a co-op close to us that we sometimes patronize for veggies (it’s hard to tell ahead of time what they’ll have), but all of the farmers’ markets are farther away and driving in this area sucks. I used to work near one, which was convenient…but then I had to take the food with me on the metro.

Anyway, the local CSA drop-off is much closer to us than any of the farmers’ markets, which is a big point in its favor.

I’m also looking forward to the spontaneity of basing our meals around what showed up this week. This could turn out to be incredibly frustrating, but I’m feeling optimistic.

Have you even been in a CSA? How did it work out for you?


{ 2 trackbacks }

Friday Finance Followers – People Make the World Go Round Edition
April 27, 2010 at 8:07 am
Frugal in the Fruitlands » Making the Most of Your CSA
July 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda April 19, 2010 at 7:58 am

We’ve subscribed to a csa this year for the first time and we’re really excited. We’ve done a half share of veggies and because we paid early we get a fruit bonus for free. We pick ours up at the local farmer’s market, where I’m hoping to also pick up fresh eggs, free range poultry, and grass fed beef, depending on prices. πŸ˜€
.-= Amanda´s last blog ..Recent Additions to the Homestead =-.

Keith @ LifeTuner April 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

I love the concept of a CSA. Meghan and I should join one too!

Mama Geek April 19, 2010 at 8:10 am

Which CSA? We were looking at one here, but they didn’t come out as far as Woodbridge and we couldn’t make arrangements to come pick it up πŸ™

Mrs. Micah April 19, 2010 at 8:57 am

@Mama Geek sent you an e-mail! Hopefully it’s close enough for you. πŸ™‚

Thursday Bram April 19, 2010 at 9:50 am

We’re in a CSA for the first time this year, as well. We went ahead and opted for a full-share for four people even though there are only three of us (but one’s a vegetarian). I’ve done some preserving in the past and I’m planning to can or freeze as much of the extra food as I can.
.-= Thursday Bram´s last blog ..Ask Me Anything: Rates, Cold-Calling and Contracts =-.

Jess April 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

I was a member of a CSA for two seasons and I’m a little bereft I won’t be able to join one this year, for various reasons. It’s fantastic. I’m only one person but I had a full share and while I didn’t always eat absolutely everything, I loved the motivation it provided to step up my veggie consumption! You’ll probably get a lot of greens, especially in the beginning and at the end. Discover green smoothies, seriously, they’re pretty great (and a great way to use all those greens).
Not only is a CSA cheaper than a farmer’s market but I like the element that doesn’t really allow you to choose what you get. It forced me to try new and strange veggies and eat more of things that I was familiar with but might not choose to buy at the farmer’s market. Variety is good for you.

January April 19, 2010 at 11:26 am

You’ll have to let me know what one you use and how it works out! I contemplated doing this for me and Maggie this summer, but we didn’t have the cash up front for it. If you love yours, we can start saving up for when the time to subscribe rolls around again. I REALLY want to support local (as local as possible) agriculture and the benefits that involves.
If you end up with surplus fruit, I’d love to help with canning/preserving. It’s a life skill I don’t have yet, and a kitchen party is always a fun time πŸ™‚

Mrs. Micah April 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

@January you were one of the people I was thinking about sharing with. Kitchen party FTW. πŸ™‚ (between our two tiny kitchens we can make this work…)

Kacie April 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Yeah! We’re doing a CSA for the first time this year also. It’s really affordable, and since I’ve already paid for it, I HAVE to pick it up. It would be too easy for me to come up with an excuse to skip a farmer’s market.

I am really excited!
.-= Kacie´s last blog ..Putting a raise toward 401k contributions =-.

Mrs. Micah April 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm

@Kacie ours was affordable too, we got in in the first batch so we paid even less. And I agree 100% about the prepaying. It’s a huge motivator. It’s easy to look at my limited time on a Saturday and think “I don’t want to spend all this time on shopping.” On the other hand, if I’ve already spent the money and don’t have to spend all my time making choices….then I’m there.

And as Jess pointed out, no need to spend time making selection and getting to experience a lot more than normal.

j. April 19, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I belonged to one last year. The weather in the rocky mountains isn’t conducive to growing “summer” veggies. It was good from august on- lots of onions and winter squash, and sometimes some (small, sad) tomatoes, but I had never in my life seen that much kale. They offered grass fed meat as well, which I think was organic, but I don’t eat it, and the roommate wasn’t interested in paying that much for meat.

I think my favorite part of the whole thing was getting brussels sprouts, still on the stalk. I’m researching a local CSA to join where I am now, for next year (finances permitting). I think it was definitely worthwhile.
.-= j.´s last blog ..Day 65- I Begin To Realize That Recipes Can Be Good =-.

LenciB: Falling Into Favor April 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I never heard of CSA…this is new to me.
.-= LenciB: Falling Into Favor´s last blog ..Stop & Listen =-.

Allison April 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I’ve been a part of Victory Farms (near Richmond, VA) CSA for the past two years, and again this summer. http://www.victoryfarmsinc.com/

It’s been wonderful! The produce lasts a lot longer because it’s coming from 18 miles away versus another country. The prices are reasonable–similar to conventional produce in a local grocery store, and everything has tasted fabulous (of course, Charlie from VF was a candidate to be the next White House gardener a while back). VF has encouraged me to try different veggies than I’d normally pick up at the supermarket, e-mails recipes weekly, and really cultivates a community among its shareholders through farm parties, etc.

I think you’re going to love being a part of a CSA!

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