Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eat Local: Community Supported Agriculture

I just joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) for the first time this spring. For those of you wondering, a CSA is a farm that you can buy a share in, in exchange for locally-grown produce once a week. You sign up and pay before the season starts, so they have the money ahead of time to invest in growing wonderful produce at their farm.

The one that I joined, Norman's Farm Market, allows me to pick up the produce from their local roadside stand. Other CSAs sometimes deliver, whereas some ask for volunteer work at their farm. Some CSAs offer "half shares" for 1-2 people and others only offer "whole shares" for a family. Some offer flowers or meat/dairy products, and some just offer fruits or vegetables. The point is, you can find what you want, when you want it, how you want it, where you want it! As for me, I am super excited about this because each week will be a surprise (as I don't know in advance what produce I will get)! It is like Christmas each week.

Sunday was the first pick-up week, and I was thrilled to take home a HUGE box of fruits and vegetables. Part of the fun was just in going to the different tables at the stand and deciding what I would fill my box with. I got a basket of potatoes, 3 pounds of vegetables including squash, peas, and tomatoes, a bunch of swiss chard and a bunch of beets, and a pint of strawberries. It was awesome taking home all this plunder. It's fresh stuff, too - as a friend of mine put it, "wow, these are actual strawberries, not fake strawberries!"

So is it worth it?
Cost for CSA per week: $15
Cost at nearby chain supermarket (Giant) for comparable items: $27

Wow! Can you believe it would have been almost twice as much? The calculation for Giant was with conventional produce too - it wasn't considering what probably would have been higher prices there for "organic" or "local" produce. Since one of my goals right now is to spend less on my groceries, this helping me save a lot of money while also allowing me to try new foods, eat healthy, and help the local economy.

Well, I'm excited to see what I'll get for the rest of the season. If you are interested in finding a CSA near where you live, check out Local Harvest. Do any of you have any other tips on getting local produce?

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