Is CSA right for me?

CSA—which stands for Community Supported Agriculture—is just one way you can access "real", authentic, quality food and support local farmers. 

The reality is that CSA is not a good fit for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if it’s not a match for you. The CSA customers who come back year after year are a “certain kind” of customer. Not a “better customer”—just a certain kind—the kind that matches the unique format of a CSA model.

 

So how do you decide if our CSA would be right for you? It’s best to go into the decision with your eyes wide open and see if your expectations match the experience that a CSA will give you. Reflecting on these six questions will help you decide if it would be a good fit.

Click each question to expand!

1. Is the relationship to the actual farmer important to you? (Do you want to support a farmer?)


There’s something rewarding about knowing you're doing your part to support a local farmer. Call it satisfying your “food conscience.” CSA is a powerful way to access great-tasting food, knowing there’s a real farm family’s livelihood depending on it. Joining a CSA means that you're committed to staying with a farmer through an entire season, come thick or thin. Inherent in this arrangement is the understanding that there's a risk. Mother Nature may send too much sun or rain, bugs or disease, and a certain crop or crops may not appear in your share that season. On the flip side, there may be a bumper crop that you get to enjoy. CSA members live with and embrace this reality every day. Their motivation for supporting the farm is just as much about having the back of the farmer as it is about getting the full financial value of their share. Make sure you read that last sentence again… it’s kinda huge. And, this relationship goes both ways. When you join our CSA, we make an attempt to cultivate a connection with you, too. We try to add value to your life by teaching you about your food’s story and how to prepare it—we want you to succeed at eating our food and get the most out of your vegetables! We also connect through our regular updates and farm visit opportunities. This doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of these connection points. But when you do, your CSA experience becomes more rich. This relationship experience is part of what you are paying for in a CSA arrangement.




2. Do you value having quality vegetable ingredients that actually taste good?


Tasteless, limp veggies that turn to slime in your fridge in a couple of days—lame. If you’re a good CSA prospect, you know this frustration well. Taste matters. Because you know that putting together a terrific meal in your kitchen isn’t just about your skill. It starts with the ingredients. An important quality of folks who stick with CSA is that they love food. Real food. Food that tastes like it should, because it’s grown in quality soil. In fact, CSAs often create food snobs, because customers finally experience how a carrot should really taste, and they cannot go back to the watered down version from the grocery store. If you really love cooking and you really value taste, then you'll probably LOVE being in a CSA. Because CSAs are all about providing high-quality vegetables that make your home dining experience feel like an event. You’re paying for that taste experience when you join a CSA. If you’re just looking for a basic celery and carrot at the cheapest price, CSA is not your gig.




3. Are you willing to try new foods? (Really?)


CSAs will push you to try new foods and explore variety in your kitchen. You'll discover new veggies you love, and you’ll discover new veggies you have to learn to love. We know that if left to your own devices, you would never purposely put a kohlrabi in your box. (Or would you? If you would, then you would definitely click with CSA!). It’s all part of the great goal in CSA of developing food diversity and teaching our communities (and our kids) how to eat seasonally again. If you want to grow in the kitchen, you have to push yourself to try new ingredients. We'll be there along the way helping you out.




4. Do you need control in your menu planning?


CSA members have to learn to be flexible with their menu and make things work in the kitchen, because you often don’t know what you will get in your box until just before the pick up. Some people love this spontaneity. Others will be stressed by it. Think hard on this: Are you willing to give up some control over what goes in your box? Or do you need to live by your plan? If you really want to stick with your plan, then you may be better off supporting a local farm via the grocery store or farmers market. A common reason members leave CSAs is that they didn't get enough of the veggies they wanted and too much of what they didn't want. CSA works best for customers who see their kitchen as a creative space, and our vegetables as the “paint” for their canvas. They can handle the spontaneity required and are willing to experiment with new ingredients to make old meal templates come alive in new ways.




5. Are you willing to work at eating "the CSA way"?


CSA is a different model than most are used to. It may take a few seasons to really become an expert at getting through every item in your CSA box. That means you will likely waste some food on the front end as you go through your learning curve. Come into this experience with an adventurous spirit, and go easy on yourself if you fail to eat the entire box every week at first. It’s really hard to do, especially as a CSA rookie! There will be many weeks when you have best intentions to be a super-chef and maximize your CSA experience… and then real life sets in and you find yourself simply eating the broccoli raw with ranch dip. It can sometimes feel like you’re “failing” in your original goal to change the way you eat (though keep in mind, vetetables with ranch dip are still vegetables!). It takes time to develop new habits and skills. Set realistic goals the first year, and work your way into it. We'll be there sharing recipes, tips & tricks throughout the season to help you out. Are you ready to work at eating "the CSA way"?




6. Are you looking for a “deal”? Are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?


People who fully embrace the CSA model don’t look for their membership to be a “deal” or a bargain. And they don’t compare the CSA experience to the grocery store price table. Read that again. This is a really key point. It is absolutely understandable to ask, “How much does it cost?” and to then weigh the pros and cons. Supporting a CSA financially, however, is not just about doing a cost analysis of each vegetable you receive in your box and comparing it to what you’d pay at Fred Meyer or Costco. Our vegetables have added value because every one of our vegetables is telling a story. Not just the story of how the food was raised, how it was harvested, or what struggles it faced to come to your plate. Not just the story of the farmer and how you help them live out their calling to the land. Every vegetable is also telling YOUR unfolding story. Our vegetables become a means to an end: they showcase your journey with food. They are the starring attraction in your quest to master your kitchen space and prepare a delicious and healthy meal you can be proud of. CSA customers appreciate this added value of our product—not to mention our informative newsletters, recipes, and storage tips—and are willing to pay for it. So if you’re saying to yourself, “Well that’s more than we’d pay at _____,” you may want to hit the pause button.




7. (Bonus question!) Will you be traveling a lot during the season?


Our winter CSA is only 10 boxes. If you already know you’re going to miss more than one box, you might want to consider whether it's a good fit for you right now. We'll pro-rate your share cost for up to one absence that you communicate to us prior to registration. However, once you're registered, our CSA isn’t the kind that credits your account if you miss a week, and we don't hold your boxes after the pick-up window. So if you have to miss multiple pick-ups, it may not make financial sense for you to sign up for a CSA right now. Plus, you'll miss out on the full range of veggies we have to offer.





So what do you think?

Is CSA is a good fit for you?

 

Remember, CSA is just one model for getting farm-fresh food onto your table. For those who value the story, the journey, and the farmer relationship behind the food, it can be a great option that can change the way you eat forever.

As in all things, expectations determine how you experience the product. To set you up for CSA success, make sure your expectations align with the philosophy of CSA before you commit.

Adapted from Shared Legacy Farms

Read all the details? Ready for some delicious veggies?

© 2020 by Boldly Grown Farm. Photo by Calvin K Carter; all rights reserved. 

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