I am a HUGE fan of our CSA crop-share. I’ve been a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) crop-share for the past 10 years. The farm we belong to is Roxbury Farm, and organic/sustainable farm about 2 hours outside of NYC in the Hudson Valley in Kinderhook, New York. Here’s how our crop-share and many CSAs work: We buy a share of the farm for the season, and the farm divides the vegetables it harvests among the members by delivering them to different share pick-up sites.
Perks of a CSA Crop-Share
Organic Produce for Less
Our CSA crop-share has been a great value. We get the freshest, organic and sustainably-grown produce direct from the farm for much less than the same produce would cost at the grocery store or even at the farmer’s market. Our share comes out to about $25 per week for a pretty large amount of organic veggies.
You Can Taste the Difference
Each winter I eat tasteless lettuce and dream of the fresh leafy greens that are dripping with dew fresh from the farm. The tomatoes smell earthy and warm. The corn is small and sweet. The root veggies (turnips, radish, beets) usually come with their greens attached. It’s really the best tasting produce you can get if you belong to a good farm.
When veggies are picked unripe, are frozen and/or travel long distances on trucks for days, they lose some of their nutritional value. The veggies we get in our share are usually picked right before their 2 hour trip to our share site.
Feel Connected to Your Food
Each week I bring one or both of the girls with me to pick up the crop-share. Our pickup site is in the courtyard of a church a few blocks away, and there’s a white board on the wall that tells members what the weekly share includes. We bring our own bags, and pick our own veggies from each of the large produce bins from the farm. The girls love picking and counting the veggies. When we get home, they are more likely to try things that they helped pick out. The veggies often come unwashed, with a good amount of dirt on them, and it makes me feel more connected to my food and where it came from.
Reduce Food Waste
CSA farms also significantly reduce food waste. The farm delivers produce of all shapes and sizes, instead of wasting the imperfect produce that would not sell well at a supermarket. Also, any leftover product after the members pickup is donated to a food pantry or food bank. Nothing is wasted and healthy food also goes to those who would not typically have access to organic produce.
The Downside of a CSA Crop-Share
You Share in the Risk of Farming
As members we share in both the bounty and the blight of the farm. Most years we’ve gotten a huge weekly haul. However, two of the years there were seriously slim pickens due to draught or late blight that wiped out whole fields of the farm. It was disappointing but even more so for the farmers who we have come to know through our weekly farm newsletters.
You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset
One of the few downsides of a crop-share is that for most CSA crop-shares, you aren’t able to choose which veggies you get each week. You get what you get and you don’t get upset, as I tell my girls. That aspect is usually really fun for me. I step out of the broccoli/kale comfort zone and cook different veggies each week. I’ve discover some new favorites (watermelon radishes and celeriac), but I’ve also gotten some veggies that I’m not a huge fan of (like turnips). It all depends on what your particular farm grows, but I must admit that I get really sick of swiss chard, which we get in our crop-share most weeks during the season.
It’s a Huge Amount of Food
Getting a huge amount for your money isn’t usually a downside. That being said, our weekly haul is generally a lot of produce to wash (many of the veggies come with lots of dirt still on them) and to prep. It’s also a lot to fit into the fridge. Whatever leafy greens don’t fit into my veggie drawers in the fridge are usually ruined since my fridge runs really cold and the leave end up freezing. I’ve blanched and frozen green to avoid wasting them but it is an added step. It’s also a lot to use up in a week. I like the challenge; it’s like a game trying to think of creative ways to use everything before the next share arrives. But I hate food waste so if there’s a week where we have a lot of dinners out planned, or I’m not feeling up for cooking (like when I was pregnant!) it can be a challenge to use all those veggies. Some of the veggies we get from our crop-share are great storage vegetables (onions, carrots, potatoes and other root veggies can last for months if stored properly), but a good portion of the share is made up of perishable leafy greens that need to be used within a week.
The Pickup Date/Time Is Not Flexible
While I love going to pickup our crop share, I am so spoiled by being able to have groceries delivered any time of day in NYC. The pickup window for our share is 4-7pm and it’s usually not a problem for me to get there since it’s on my way home from work and only 2 blocks from our apartment. But once in a while there’s a conflict when I have an event or something else scheduled for after work. It also means that if you go on vacation or are out of town for the day, you either need to send someone else to pick up for you or forfeit your share for the week.
Overall we have been so happy with our crop-share. When our friends gush over the taste of the veggies and ask if they should join a crop-share, I give them this inside scoop so they can decide if it will work for them. Anyone have any other pros or cons to add to this list? Share in the comments!
If you’re interested in finding a CSA farm near you check out LocalHarvest.
*Featured photo via AquaSprouts