6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Joining a CSA
CSA stands for Community supported Agriculture, and is just one of the many ways that customers who believe in “real, transparent food” can support their local farmer.
What’s the difference between supporting a farmer through a CSA versus a roadside stand? Or a farmer’s market? Why would a person consider signing up for a CSA instead? These are great questions!
The reality is that CSA is not always a good fit for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if it’s not a match for you. The CSA customers who come back year after year are a “certain kind” of customer. Not a “better customer” — just a certain kind — the kind that matches the unique format of a CSA model. It’s best to go into the decision with your eyes wide open, and see if your expectations match the experience that a CSA will give you.
To help you decide if CSA is right for you and before you sign up for this seasonal commitment to a specific farmer, ask yourself these 6 questions….
Q1: Is a relationship to the actual farmer important to you? (Do you want to support a farmer?)
Effective CSAs focus on the farmer-customer relationship as much as the product. We find that many of our members feel that the relationship to the farm and it’s farmers is one of the most integral reasons for joining our CSA.
CSA members want to be able to shake the hand that feeds them. Which is why our CSA is perfect for those kinds of people. The opportunity to come out to the farm to pick up a box with the days harvest as well as participate in U-Pick on the farm for things like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes etc. is what our CSA is known for.
There’s something rewarding about knowing you are doing your part to support a local farmer. Call it satisfying your “food conscience.” CSA is a mechanism you can put into your weekly routine that allows you to access great-tasting food, knowing there’s a real farm family’s livelihood depending on it. This means that you are committed to staying with a specific farmer through an entire season, come thick or thin, and they in turn are committed to the harvest and supplying you with the freshest, most nutritious produce possible.
Inherent in this arrangement is the understanding that there is a risk. Mother Nature may send too much sun or rain, bugs or disease, and a certain crop or crops may not appear in your share that summer. On the flip side, there may be a bumper crop of tomatoes or cucumbers, and you’ll be swimming in sweet corn.
A member’s motivation for supporting the farm is just as much about having the back of the farmer as it is about getting the full financial value of their share.
Make sure you read that last sentence again… it’s kinda huge!
But this relationship goes both ways. When you join a CSA, your farmer and farm staff will cultivate a connection with you too. This means:
We learn your names and work hard to make the “big CSA” feel like a small family.
We might plan events to get you engaging with the farm (special CSA U-pick!)
We try to add value to your life, by teaching you about our food’s story, or how to prepare it.
We do things to help you succeed at eating our food.
This relationship experience is part of what you are paying for in a CSA arrangement.
Q2: Do you value having quality vegetable ingredients that actually taste good?
Our fruits and vegetables become your medium to create in the kitchen. Make something beautiful!
…But you know that putting together a terrific meal in your kitchen isn’t just about your skill. It starts with the ingredients.
The second most important quality of our successful CSA members is that they love food. Real food. Food that tastes like it should, because it’s grown in quality soil and is absolutely fresher than anything you’ll find in the grocery store.
For example, because customers finally experience how a carrot should really taste, they cannot go back to the watered down versions of their favorite produce items at the big box stores.
If you really love cooking and you really value taste, then you will LOVE being in a CSA. Because CSAs are all about providing high-quality, artisanal vegetables that make your home dining experience feel like an event. You’re paying for that taste experience when you join a CSA.
If you’re just looking for a basic item at the cheapest price so you can make an iceberg salad — this is not your gig. And that’s ok.
Q3: Are you willing to try new foods? (Like really willing?)
We provide ingredients you may have never seen before to push your horizons in the kitchen. CSAs will push you to try new foods and explore variety in your kitchen.
Read between the lines here: You will discover new veggies you love, and reinvent veggies that you didn’t like before.
Part of the CSA experience means getting exposed to a wide variety of produce cultivars. We put fruits and veggies in your box that you may have never seen before, and we teach you how to eat them.
Let’s face it: We know that if left to your own devices, you would never purposely put a kohlrabi in your box. (Or would you? If you would then you would definitely click with CSA).
Another great example is fennel; you either love it or hate it. If you hate it, I guarantee that we can show you at least one recipe, one new creative way of preparing it, that will change your mind. Not only are we here to help you, but our members are dynamite at offering suggestions and tips to help you figure out new veggies!
It’s all part of the great goal in CSA of developing food diversity and teaching our communities (and our kids) how to eat seasonally again. If you want to grow in the kitchen, you have to push yourself to try new ingredients.
Q4: Do you need control in your menu planning? Or can you go with the flow?
Remember the saying “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”?
CSA members have to learn to be flexible with their menu and make things work in the kitchen, because you don’t know what you will get in your box until pick up.
Some people love this spontaneity. Others will be a little nerved by it. And that’s okay.
Are you willing to give up some control over what goes in your box? Or do you need to live by your meal plan? If you’re someone that wants to have spinach lasagna on Wednesday, and your box doesn’t have spinach that week, will that be a make or break experience, or will you allow yourself to adjust to the flow of spontaneity?
This is the number 1 reason non-renewing members give for leaving CSA: “I didn’t get enough of the things I wanted, and I got too much of the things I didn’t.”
CSA works best for customers who see their kitchen as a creative space, and our vegetables as the “paint” for their canvas.
They can handle the spontaneity required and are willing to experiment with new ingredients to make old meal templates come alive in new ways. Our CSA provides a roadmap to help you “master” eating the CSA way.
Here is an actual quote by a CSA member:
Since I started receiving the box, it has helped me to be more creative with cooking and motivated me to prepare a lot of new dishes that I otherwise wouldn’t have. By having vegetables already selected for me each week, life has been easier (less stress about meal planning). Having the CSA box is like having a personal shopper for veggies. I use your recipes (which have been great) or research new ones with the ingredients in the box each week. Also, it is always fun to see what is in the next box.
Q5: Are you willing to work at eating the CSA way?
Patience, my friend. (It’s a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line).
CSA takes time to see results; that means you will go through a learning curve.
Come into this experience with an adventurous spirit, and go easy on yourself if you fail to eat the entire box at first. There will be many weeks when you have best intentions to be a super-chef and maximize your CSA tasting experience… and then real life sets in, and you find yourself simply eating the broccoli raw with ranch dip.
It can sometimes feel like you’re “failing” in your original goal to change the way you eat.
Realize that if this is your goal, it takes time to learn the skill sets. (Don’t worry, we’re here to help you along the way). Set realistic goals the first year, and work your way into it.
This is a really hard reality for some to face. Either you don’t get home to make dinner in time because your life is hectic (so the veggies rot) …or you end up eating take-out several times a week because you’re playing chauffeur to your 3 kids (so the veggies rot).
Like all paradigm shifts, it takes time to develop new habits and learn how to eat nimbly. If you are committed to learning how, you can do it! But it may take time before you feel like you’ve got it down.
Q6: Are you looking for a “deal”? Are you comparing CSA prices to the grocery store?
It is absolutely understandable to ask, “How much does it cost?” And to then weigh the pros and cons.
But supporting a CSA financially is not just about doing a cost analysis of each vegetable you receive in your box and comparing it to what you’d pay at Stop & Shop or Costco.
Our vegetables have added value because every one of our vegetables is telling a story. Not just the story of how the food was raised, how it was harvested, or what struggles it faced to come to your plate. Not just the story of the farmer and their family and how you help them live out their calling to the land.
Every vegetable is also telling YOUR unfolding story.
Our vegetables become a means to an end: they showcase your journey with food. They are the starring attraction in your quest to master your kitchen space and prepare a delicious meal to rival any restaurant fare — a meal you can be proud of.
CSA members tell us that their kids are now eating vegetables. Often times the carrots and peas disappear on the ride home in the car! This is not something any grocery store can give you.
CSA customers appreciate this added value of our product, and are willing to pay a premium for it.
So if you’re saying to yourself, “Well that’s more than we’d pay at _____” ~ you may want to hit the pause button.
Remember, CSA is just one model out there for getting fresh farmer food onto your table. For those who value the story, the journey, and the farmer relationship behind the food, it can be a great option that can change the way you eat forever.
As in all things, expectations determine how you experience the product. To set you up for CSA success, make sure your expectations align with the philosophy of CSA before you commit.
Ultimately, we want you to be happy and confident with your decision to join our CSA. We have many members that have been with us for years. We’ve developed really awesome friendships with many of our CSA members and we’ve even watched their children grow year after year. Our members are what makes our farm come alive in the Summer and we couldn’t do it without them!
If you think you’re ready, here are your next steps:
Check out our CSA program here. You’ll find more information, specifics, and prices. Choose your share size that best fits your family and the pick up day that fits your schedule.
If you have any more questions, fill out our contact form here. We’re happy to help!
With love and gratitude,