Green and Organic Savings: Sampling a CSA

August 17th, 2008

Big purchases scare many people these days. So when it comes time to sign up for a CSA, worries may kick in.

Will I get more than just kale?,” you may wonder. “Is $900 for a season really worth it?”

The good news is you can sample a CSA’s bounty. Although few, if any, CSAs promote trial periods, the fact is that during the waning days of summer, many CSA members leave town for vacation and offer their weekly shares for sale.

For around $30, you should be able to pick up a week’s share, about two bags full of farm fresh produce, and depending on the CSA, you may also take home bread, grains, cheese, eggs, or even home-baked cookies.

For more information, check out the list of CSAs at Local Harvest. Then email or call the contact person and ask if anyone is trying to sell a week’s share while on vacation.

Good luck and leave a comment to let me know if you end up sampling a CSA!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Six Tips for Choosing a CSA that’s Right for You

February 18th, 2008

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!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Six Reasons to Love a CSA (They’re More than Just Kale!)

February 11th, 2008

Some Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups have a reputation for providing their members with little more than an overabundance of kale, chard, and root vegetables with a few sprigs of parsley thrown in. CSAs, as you may know, are collectives formed to purchase a farmer’s or a group of farmers’ crops. Members share in the bounty (or the loss) and the farmers are guaranteed a set price for their crops.

CSA Pick-up Point

While it’s true that through my recent CSA experience, I have learned I prefer chard to kale, the recent growth in the “buy local” movement and the growing popularity of CSAs means that if you join one, you’re likely to enjoy a far broader range of foods than in years past.

Following are six reasons to love a CSA (Part 1 of 2 Posts on CSAs)

1. Variety – It’s easy to fall into a rut at the market, picking the same familiar veggies and fruits every week. Through a CSA, you may be exposed to celeriac, black radish, salsify, purple top turnips, passionfruit, persimmon, kabocha squash, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet white turnips, and Big “Florida-type” avocados, in addition to those CSA stand-bys, chard and kale! Some CSAs also provide fantastic farm fresh cheese and wonderful varieties of home-baked bread.

2. Commitment – Since you are required to pre-pay for your CSA membership, you’ll likely make it a point to get your CSA share every week. C’mon, admit it. How many times have you resorted to processed or convenience food because you simply hadn’t made it to the market for something fresh?

3. Inspiration – With the abundance of new foods to experiment with, odds are you’ll have to dust off that old cookbook and take a look at some recipes for the unfamiliar produce in your share. Cooking and discovering new recipes are all part of the CSA adventure! (Check out this blog with recipes matched to shares from the Spiritual Food for the New Millenium CSA).

4. Family Learning – My kindergartner is learning about where food really comes from, how delicious fresh organic and biodynamic food tastes, and even how to carefully measure produce on the scales. As part of our volunteer commitment to our CSA, he’s also learned how to bag flax seeds and practiced counting and sorting more than 100 bags.

5. Health – Between the variety of food, the desire to cook more healthy meals at home, and the forcing function of receiving a pre-paid weekly CSA share, odds are your regular diet will become much healthier.

6. Fun – I love visiting the CSA with my children. It is a fun, relaxed escape from the surrounding urban area.

And of course, the most important reason to join a CSA is to help the environment by supporting local, organic and biodynamic farmers.

Please check out this post explaining what’s behind the biodynamic food in some CSAs, and come back next Monday for the second part in this series, which will discuss how to choose a CSA that’s right for you.

To find a CSA near you, visit

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania