With the growing popularity of both the “eat local” and the organic movements, membership in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cooperatives is on the upswing. Last week’s post discussed six reasons to love a CSA, and this week we’ll cover six tips for choosing a CSA that’s right for you. After all, each CSA has its own “personality” and you’ll need to find one that fits your convictions and lifestyle, or else you may be disappointed.
Following are six factors to consider when choosing your CSA:
1. Volunteer commitments – Traditionally, CSAs have required volunteer commitments from their members. The extent of volunteer hours and obligations will vary widely from CSA to CSA. Common volunteer chores include: working at the farm, driving a delivery truck, unloading the delivery truck, bagging produce, setting up the pick-up location, and working during share pick-up hours.
2. Veggie, Ovo-lacto-vegetarian, or Carnivore? – Some CSAs offer organic meat, whereas others are completely vegetarian or ovo-lacto-vegetarian, meaning you may be able to get milk, eggs, or cheese along with your vegetarian share.
3. Local / Organic Commitment – It used to be that organic implicitly meant local, but that’s no longer the case. Generally speaking, most CSAs will have a preference for local, organic food. But what happens in the dead of winter? Unless you live in a warm climate, you’ll likely face one of two scenarios: either your CSA will ship in organic produce from warmer climes, or you’ll be subsisting on a lot of root vegetables. Some members may welcome the addition of organic oranges, while others will decry the fossil fuels used to ship them to your local CSA.
4. Communications – Leveraging communications tools such as listservs and blogs can make all the difference in the community spirit of a CSA. Is there a way for members to connect to discuss issues such as switching volunteer hours, selling shares during vacation weeks, or recipes for the obscure veggies in your latest share?
5. Delivery and/or Pick-up Hours – If you’re habitually the last person to pick up your share, you may find the pickings are slim. What are your CSA’s pick-up hours and how do they regulate the food distribution?
6. Farm Visits – Can you visit the farms that grow your food? For some members, this is the essence of joining a CSA.
When choosing a CSA, consider what’s most important to you. Typically, you’ll be dealing with a CSA for about six months, so a little upfront research will go a long way toward ensuring a happy experience.
What’s been your experience with CSAs? Please leave a comment and share!
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