Why You Should Join a CSA This Year

wooden box of fresh picked produce

Imagine coming home with a big box of seasonal produce every week, grown by a local farmer. Or what if you could have it delivered right to your door?

The 100% organic food was picked yesterday, and the whole box cost you less than half of what you would have paid for conventional produce at the grocery store.

So how exactly do you get in on this deal?

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs, have become an increasingly popular way for people to buy local, seasonal—often organic—food directly from a farmer at a great price.

CSAs are popping up all over the country as the demand for local, farm-fresh food grows. These days, if you live within 100 miles of a farm, you probably live within 100 miles of a CSA!

The basics are simple: In a CSA, a farmer offers “shares” of farm produce for sale to the public. Interested buyers purchase a share, becoming CSA members, and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce harvested each week throughout the growing season. Sometimes you can get farm-fresh eggs, dairy, flowers and honey, too!

This arrangement has many advantages for both the farmer and the customer.

Farmers enjoy:

  • Marketing the food early in the year, before the long days in the field begin
  • Receiving payment early in the season, when the farmer needs cash flow the most
  • Having an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
  • A higher return than is typical for selling produce to brokers, grocery stores or other wholesale outlets

CSA Members enjoy:

  • Eating just-picked, local food, with maximum flavor and vitamin content
  • Food that has less environmental impact because it was grown and sold locally
  • Often lower cost for organic produce than at retail stores or even the farmer’s market, while spending your money within your own community
  • Exposure to new vegetables, new recipes, and new ways of cooking
  • An opportunity to get to visit the farm at least once a season and sometimes socialize with other members.
  • Developing a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learning more about how food is grown

CSAs aren’t confined to produce. Some farmers also offer members shares of eggs, jam, homemade bread, meat, cheese, flowers or other farm products along with vegetables and fruit. Sometimes, farmers will get together and offer their products together, to offer the widest variety of seasonal food to their members.

Building Local Food Communities

While the structure of a CSA is simple, there is an important concept woven into the CSA model that makes it a little different from the usual commercial transaction: the notion of shared risk.

Shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. As a CSA shareholder, you have a stake in the success of the farm, so if a hailstorm takes out all the squash, everyone is disappointed together, and together you all rally for the tomatoes and peppers.

Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. Still, very occasionally things go wrong on a farm—like they do in any kind of business. If this potential makes you feel anxious, then the shared risk of a CSA may not be for you, and you should shop at your farmers’ market.

How to Find a CSA Farm in Your Area

There are a couple of ways to find a local farm offering produce shares or boxes in your area

Farmbox Direct

Farmbox Direct – Farmbox Direct delivers healthy organic & natural produce boxes sourced from local farmers in your area. Their menu changes weekly according to what’s fresh, local, and in-season for you. You get a lot of choice about what goes in your box and can make substitutions, if needed.

Imperfect Foods – Imperfect Foods’ mission is to eliminate food waste and build a better food system. They offer imperfect produce, affordable pantry items, and quality eggs and dairy delivered to your home for up to 30% off compared to grocery store prices. If you’re willing to eat blemished, off-spec, surplus or near-expiration food, you can get deep discounts while keeping this perfectly healthy food out of the landfill.

Local Harvest Local Harvest is a national non-profit connecting people with the small family farmers in their community—reports that they get complaint calls on between 2 and 9 CSA farms every year—out of several thousand nationwide. Usually the cause of the complaint comes down to a failure to deliver as promised because of a catastrophic divorce, major illness, extreme weather, or a new farmer that got in over his or her head. Sometimes, however, the CSA member simply did not do his or her due diligence and had unreasonable expectations.

Here are some great tips for having a successful and rewarding CSA membership. But, ultimately, nothing beats a personal conversation with the farmer. Here are the questions Local Harvest recommends you might ask before joining a CSA:

  • How long have you been farming?
  • How long have you been doing a CSA?
  • Are there items in your box grown by other farms, and if so, which farms?
  • How did last season go?
  • How many members do you have?
  • What percentage of the food you deliver annually is grown on your farm? If the answer is less than 100%, ask where the rest of the food comes from, whether it’s certified organic (if that is important to you), and whether members are told which items come from off-farm.
  • I’d like to talk with a couple of your members before I commit. Could you give me contact info for a couple of “references”?

Taking the time to vet your CSA farmer will help ensure a long-lasting and rewarding relationship between you, the farmer, your community and your food.

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Local Acts with National Impact

Community Supported Agriculture is a simple idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families across the country have joined CSAs, and the numbers are growing exponentially every year. In some areas of the U.S., there is more demand for Community Supported Agriculture than there are farms to fill it!

In the burgeoning market for whole, organic food, CSA offers an outstanding way for new farmers, small farmers and even homesteaders to provide a secure, diversified living for themselves on a small parcel of land.

(Learn how to start a CSA or market garden on your land here and here.)

If CSA sounds like an ideal way to enjoy local, fresh produce to you, then Local Harvest, Imperfect Foods and Farmbox Direct can get your started, so you can easily find and join a CSA in your community.

I hope for the sake of your wallet, your health, your community, and the planet that you will!

Updated 6/16/20


24 thoughts on “Why You Should Join a CSA This Year”

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  1. Avatar photo
    Nancy T. Saner

    One thing we’ve done is make big pots of soup or chili and frozen those, too, and it definitely makes things much easier. And the great thing about gardening is that you’re kind of forced to use what you have. It’s why I’ve always wanted to join a CSA. It’s easier to plan a meal when you already have most of the ingredients. … I love our CSA, but of course what we get from it is fresh veggies. It doesn’t help with any of the rest of the ingredients to use the veggies. What it does for me is make sure that I have big piles of fresh veggies around, more than I would ever buy myself at the farmer’s market (and way cheaper than the farmer’s market)

  2. I just checked out all the CSAs in my area. Only one offered a half share. I believe that the farms could attract a number of older citizens if they all offered 1/2 shares or even 1/4 shares for seniors.

  3. Avatar photo
    kristy @ gastronomical soveriegnty

    oh i miss my CSA! it was entirely local, entirely organic and entirely delivered to our house every week! this year we’ve decided to for-go the CSA route as our new city doesn’t seem to offer everything we want. Instead, I’m gonna hit up the farmer’s markets. That being said, I miss getting a basket of fresh produce that forces me to be creative with my cooking. I learned so much during our CSA and got to do so many new things… I suppose I can do it at the farmer’s market too but it’s not as easy to select something that I’m not huge on ordinarily or something I don’t know when I have baskets of fresh berries and squash blossoms available haha..

    Just an FYI m’dear – this post will be featured on the monthly Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up Round Up this week! If you have a chance, feel free to stop by and check out the other featurettes 🙂 Hope to see you again soon with more seasonal & real food posts! xo, kristy

  4. All the reasons you mention for loving your CSA farmer ring true for me! And he has promised to pilot a winter share this year, so we too can follow your southern Californian footsteps and have local veg (nearly) year round. Can’t wait.

  5. It has been a long time since my family was part of a CSA, and I have been pondering looking into joining one again. These are some great reasons to get back into it.
    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

  6. Avatar photo
    Lori @ Our Heritage of Health

    Great information about CSAs! I think it’s so important to support local agriculture, not to mention the added bonus of having fresh produce that tastes better and is healthier for you too!

    Thanks for sharing with Old-Fashioned Friday! 🙂

  7. Great post! We are just getting started as market growers and hope to be able to do something like this in the future. Thank you so much for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again tomorrow evening when it goes live: http://blackfoxhomestead.com/the-homeacre-hop/


  8. Avatar photo
    Organic Aspirations (@becki_lewis)

    Thanks for sharing this on Eco Kids! I love my CSA, and this will be our third year being involved. It is absolutely a bargain, and I still have some peppers in the freezer from last year that I haven’t finished using. I’m excited for this year’s CSA! We belong to Left Bower Farm near Pittsburgh, PA, and this blog post I wrote about eating local has photos of one of our shares: http://organicaspirations.blogspot.com/2012/09/8-reasons-to-eat-local.html

  9. We only have one semi-local CSA in our area 🙁 (thankfully I have my own “CSA” as in my Poppaw shares his graden goodies with us!)

    I’d love to have you share your post on CSAs with us tomorrow at Eco-Kids Tuesday! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/search/label/Eco-Kids%20Tuesday Hope to see you there!

    1. haha I guess you already did!! Thaks so much!! Hope you join us again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/03/flip-trainer-review-at-eco-kids-tuesday.html

  10. What a cool idea! And how wonderful you can get organic for less than the price of “regular”!
    Thanks for sharing at A Humble Bumble 🙂

  11. I have always thought a CSA would be great for those who don’t have the opportunity to garden at home. I am not sure if we have anything in our area but then I have never really researched it either. We are very thankful that we are able to have a fairly large garden and supplement from pick your own farms around our area.

    Thanks for linking up to our Healthy Tuesdays Blog Hop- you always have such great information, I love reading your posts!
    Kerry from Country Living On A Hill

  12. Avatar photo
    April @ The 21st Century Housewife

    This is an excellent post with so much valuable information. We don’t have CSAs in England, but I have heard wonderful things about them from my friends in the US. It’s a great way to get healthy produce, support local farms and help the environment all at the same time. We do have ‘organic fruit and vegetable box schemes’ which are not quite the same, but they do help support smaller farmers and keep things as local as possible.

  13. Avatar photo
    Lisa @ Two Bears Farm

    We do our own garden, but if we didn’t, I would definitely go the CSA route – they’re wonderful!

  14. Although I know we will never see strawberries in our Colorado CSA share, my family and I love, love, love our CSA! We’ve been hosts for ours for about five years, maybe going on six, now. I’ve learned to love mushrooms and kale and this summer my goal is to learn to love beets! We get ’em just about every week from June through December!

  15. And just so you don’t think you can’t do it because you don’t live in CA, I live in NE Ohio and we are part of a great CSA. There is even a winter CSA and we get some produce, but lots of great organic, locally raised meats, cheeses, dairy, canned goods, eggs, etc. I love it! We got fresh salad greens all winter long!

  16. Avatar photo
    recipes we love

    LOVE your info about CSA’s and I will be visiting your site often. 🙂 found you through reasons to skip housekeeping

  17. I signed up for a CSA a few weeks ago and can’t wait for the first bag of goodies. Here in Ohio, we have to wait a little longer for fresh produce, but I’m excited to be a part of this “growing” trend! Thanks for encouraging us all to join in supporting our local farmers!



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