What should I look for when choosing a CSA?

With all of the labels being tossed around these days — organic, sustainable, fair-trade, eco friendly, 100% natural, Non-GMO — it can be confusing and difficult to know which one’s the “right” one. What does it all mean anyway? For my family and I, it’s all about the simple and supporting the individual.

I’m sure many of you have seen, or at least heard of, the documentaries out there like Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, and King Corn. They serve the purpose of showing society some of the awful conditions in which our food is grown and harvested. And as a result, when we buy “organic” or “sustainable” we feel good about it because we think we’re using our valuable food dollars wisely.

While that may be true, in some way, what does “organic” mean these days anyway? The reality is…the term organic has been over-used, wrongly used, and misunderstood. Many — not all, but many — of the once organic farms have been hijacked by the corporate farming industry. And while consumers think that because a product has been labeled “organic” the food inside the container must have been produced in a peaceful little farm, somewhere in rural America, without the use of chemicals, hormones, GMO seeds, or pesticides. But unfortunately, that’s not the case.

What are we to do?

There should be no mistake, in as much as I understand it, organic food is still better for humans and the environment (to some degree) than conventional food. But have you noticed the price on organic foodstuffs in the grocery store?

Organics have additional disadvantages, like the travel that is required from field-to-plate. That’s not good for the enviroment! Did you know that our food often travels 1,500-2,500 miles to get to us!?! Crazy right!

Given all of this information, what exactly should we be doing and/or looking for?

  1. The best thing we can do is grow and raise our own food — enough to sustain or at least off-set some of the cost of feeding our families. But let’s be realistic, all of us aren’t in a place to do that right now (myself included), so the next best option is to…
  2. Shop Farmer’s Markets, or…
  3. Join a Co-op, or…
  4. Participate in a local Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program (here’s another great resource for local foods).

Join a CSA, buy local, and get to know your farmer.

Joining a CSA and buying the majority of your food from a local farmer means:

  • insuring local sustainability
  • a lowered carbon footprint on your food consumption
  • less packaging
  • money pumped back into the local economy
  • more nutritionally-dense food
  • fresher, better tasting meals 

Each CSA has different rules for joining, but basically they are like a subscription for fresh food. In general, members pay a pre-set amount of money up-front for a specific amount of food from the farm. For example, my CSA sells farm shares based on a credit system. Each week, I can go to any farm stand location and purchase any amount of produce, eggs, honey, etc. Once I’ve spent my credit I can then choose to purchase an additional share.  

Benefits of joining a CSA include:

Knowing first-hand the growing practices of the farmer. My farmer is not organic certified, yet I have been out to the farm several times and I’ve seen his utilization of natural growing methods. I don’t need an “organic label” to tell me that my food is being grown without the use of chemicals…I know it because I’ve seen it. 

Fresh weekly produce.
Every week I know my family will have fresh produce, full of flavor and nutritionally-dense. Outside of growing my own food, this is the next best thing.

Financial support for the farmer. 
Buying food from a CSA insures the farmer’s future and pours money back into the local economy.

Environmentally-friendly.
Why buy food that was grown literally thousands of miles from your home, when the same stuff may be grown on the farm just across town? Many CSA farms raise and grow food with standards much higher than government labeled organics. They simply may not want to pay for the organic certifications and regulations. Producing food with these methods has proven to be the most sustainable for our planet.

Community building.
Joining a CSA has been instrumental in making connections with like-minded others. I have the confidence in knowing that if anything were to happen, there are a variety of different people that would all pull together to help one another. 

Bottom line, we really should start taking more responsibility for our food, we simply can not trust the big corporations or government to do it for us. Make every effort to go out and visit the local CSA farms in your area to see where your food comes from.

The saddest part is it’s not getting better, in fact, it’s going to get worse. Therefore, we can only try to do our best, educate ourselves, and hopefully in the end we’ll be better because of it.

Find a CSA near you by visiting localharvest.org.

Are you a member of a CSA? Share you experience with us and take the opportunity to give a shout out to your farmer:)

Be sure not to miss a post, click this link to receive my free eBook and Frugally Sustainable tips by email.

Shared on: Monday Mania, Homestead Barn Hop

Comments

  1. I love this post and I couldn’t agree more. What saddens me is that there are a lot of people who are oblivious to what real foods are. I’ve watched King Corn, Food Inc, and Fathead, and my eyes have been opened to what big food companies are doing to our food supply. I’m not in a position to purchase a CSA, but I do the best I can and avoid conventional foods like the plague. There are no excuses for being in the dark about what real foods are. Eventually, the organic label isn’t going to mean much since big agribusiness is in control of everything. Your articles are so great. Keep up the good work. By the way, I saw your store on Etsy and I can’t wait to order from you in the future. Do you have any good ideas for finding work at home? I want to work at home so that I can stay at home with my daughter.

    • You’re right on! And don’t feel bad about not being able to purchase a share in a CSA. I love that you said “but I do the best I can.” That’s awesome :) Btw…thank you for the encouragement and my best advice for being a “work-at-home-mom” is to follow your passion. Think outside of the box, cut out all expenses that aren’t absolutely necessary (that may take some redefining…at least it did for me), and trust that where there’s a will, there’s a way. I never in a million years thought that I would be able to stay at home and raise my babies, but here I am doing it. We had ourselves in quite a financial mess, but after readjusting priorities, and selling a bunch of stuff, I’ve never felt so free. Email me and I’d be happy to answer any specific questions you have:)

      • Thank you Andrea, and I will email you soon. I really appreciate your blog so much and your positive attitude. One of the best blogs ever, and I sincerely mean that.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I just found a CSA program by me and I’m signing up for my first year! I can’t wait to get all of that fresh, organic produce. I’m expecting my 2nd child this summer and have to move, so I just won’t have the time/energy for my usual organic garden at home, plus there are many things I can’t/don’t grow, so this is the perfect solution!

    Again, thank you so much, I love reading these posts!

  3. Andrea I am thrilled with our CSA program. If anyone is interested in reading about another person’s CSA experience, I did a blog post here last year: http://stephaniehallburns.blogspot.com/2011/06/community-supported-agriculture.html (I hope you don’t mind my sharing, Andrea! I just LOVE this program).

    One of the biggest benefits for our family has been simply eating more healthy produce. Since I am frugally minded and not wasteful, I make sure to use all of the contents of our CSA box each week. This has forced me to be more creative in the kitchen as well.

    It’s just been a win-win all the way around. :)

    • I LOVE the fact that you shared you post! Frugally Sustainable exists to be a resource…I am very happy to host the sharing of relevant ideas:) Don’t you just love the creativity that comes out of a CSA membership!!!

  4. Great post! We live just a few miles from Angelic Organics, the subject of the documentary ‘The Real Dirt On Farmer John” and have been over to their farm with our home school group for classes. Very cool :)

    I also wanted to stop in and let you know that I have selected you for the ‘Versatile Blogger Award!” Please stop by my blog to accept your award!

    Thanks!
    Lisa

  5. I’d love to join a CSA. . . but holy cow! Can only find one even remotely near my home (pickup would be at a town 60 miles away), and the cost per share is over $700! This may be par for the course, idk, but it’s a little steep for me, especially when you consider the $20-30 each week for gas, depending on price fluctuations. I can’t grow much myself, as I live in an apartment where everything, even what we can have on our porch, is strictly regulated, but I can’t afford that, either! Guess I’ll be checking out local farmers’ markets and growers (nearest being 30 miles from home) when the season gets here. What’s a girl to do? On the bright side, I stumbled on a source for farm-fresh milk yesterday. Score! :D

  6. Thank you for this post. It really helped me understand CSA’s better. I also appreciate the link. Unfortunately it doesn’t show any CSA options in my region at all but it may help me find other resources and at least learn more about the process.

  7. I’ve been a member of a local CSA for about a year now. We get 95% of our produce through them and the rest comes from farmer’s markets, the front yard and then if absolutely necessary, i’ll go to the grocery store. The CSA has been absolutely invaluable to me in learning what is locally and seasonally produced in our area – a lesson i think that i’ll carry with me until the day i die. I only wish we were provided with eggs, honey, and/or meats… I’m going to email them and see about that because I know there are plenty of local happy farms producing that stuff. That being said, my CSA delivers right to my door. I literally do nothing. I send them 10 post dated cheques, and they show up, pick up the old box, and deliver the new one. Love it!

  8. My first time here! Great information. Love you Blog! I invite you to my blog and my give away!

    http://theredeemedgardener.blogspot.com/2012/02/2-great-give-aways.html

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