Community Supported Agriculture: A Reasonably-Priced Green Solution for Organic Produce

You may recall from my Earth Day Resolution blog that I’m a struggling grocery shopper. Deciding what’s for dinner is hard enough, but figuring out how to get healthful eco-friendly food for reasonable prices has felt nearly impossible.  I want my child to munch on organic fruits and veggies, but when I see the prices my inner tightwad has a nervous breakdown. 

I’ve only been a Community Supported Agriculture member for one week, but already I feel vastly better about our family’s grocery habits.  Wondering what a CSA is? It’s a farm that provides seasonal organic produce directly to community members for a regular monthly price.  In our case we pay $135 each month for weekly bags chock full of organic goodies.  Click here for more info on CSA’s in general and here to find out if there’s one in your area.

Our CSA, Sweetwater Farm, allows people to join a month at a time so I was able to make the giant leap over to a farm subscription without worrying about a year-long commitment. After just one week we love it, and here’s why:

It’s easy!  Every Thursday we head to a shopping center close to our home to pick up our bag of mystery veggies and fruits.  They’re fresh, mostly local and so very good for us.  I don’t have to run around town to get the best prices or scrub my non-organic veggies to get the sludge off. 

It inspires healthy eating.  My friend Andy lost 18 pounds when she joined her CSA just because she found herself surrounded by glorious wholesome foods and subsequently began eating better each week.  She ended up quitting Weight Watchers but sticking with her CSA.

It gets us out of our comfort zone.  The idea of getting a large bag full of unknown produce was daunting at first, but already we’ve had some amazing meals with cabbage, asparagus, and fingerling potatoes that I wouldn’t have picked up on regular trips to the grocery store.

It exposes our toddler to a variety of produce. He’s still young enough not to stick out his tongue when we pile veggies onto his plate.  If he gets accustomed to eating lots of green stuff now, we may be able to avoid the long “cheese pizza” phase that some youngsters undergo.  (My fingers are crossed!) 

It comes with recipes. Last night I made an amazing frittata with Swiss chard and earlier this week we ate a scrumptious stir fry with cabbage and fresh asparagus.  I NEED weekly ideas for meals so this has been a treat!

It sends money directly to farmers. When we buy produce at the grocery store a tiny fraction ends up in the hands of the people who labored to grow the food.  With a CSA your money goes directly to the grower, so  you are sustaining your local economy, eating organic food for less, and helping the planet. 

We’re certainly spending more than we did on produce, but that motivates us to value our veggies and buy less meat, which happens to be environmentally beneficial as well.  My only regret in joining a CSA is that I didn’t do it sooner. What are your tips for finding good prices on organic fruits and vegetables?  

Comments

  1. This is a great idea, Joy! I have also heard of people splitting their CSA boxes with other families. If you’re afraid you’ll never get through a huge box of vegetables each week, this is something to consider.

    I get a box of organic vegetables delivered to me each week by a Portland company called Organics to You. I like it because it’s flexible: I can choose the size of box I want, how often I get a box, and even what goes in the box. Customers can make a “do not like” list, so you’re never stuck with a bunch of beets if you’re a beet-hater. (I love them myself!)

  2. I do a local co-op. I can go each week and give them $17.50 for a decent sized box of all local organically grown produce. There are also other other options for a mixture of local and other, and also a fruit bag. I will probably add on the fruit bag again soon, cause I try to stick with local but I do like fruit and if I end up buying it anyway I may as well support the co-op.

    There is also a local organic community garden that allows you to go pick your own every Sunday, and pay for what you pick, and believe me when I say it’s a very good price. It’s a total urban garden in reclaimed warehouse space in the 5th ward just south of downtown Houston, and it’s really neat.
    Also the Saturday farmer’s market, though the produce prices are more doing this than the co-ops.

  3. Love my CSA! I’m behind the 8 ball in sending my money in but I’d better hurry or it will be too late. It fills up fast. I tried more new veggies because of it. Great post!

  4. This is a great idea! I have recently decided that for the summer at least, we’ll try buying as much produce from local sources as we can. I am looking at some CSA boxes.

    I have tried Organics To You as well and like the flexibility, but at the time they didn’t have as many local options as I would like.

    I’m also planning to visit the local Farmer’s Markets every week. They start this weekend!

  5. Brenna, from what I’ve observed, Organics to You is entirely local during the summer. Over the winter the local selections are limited to apples, greens, and root vegetables, so they add some stuff from California. Most CSAs don’t run during the winter at all, so I forgive Organics to You for not being 100% local all the time.

    I really like how getting my Organics to You box forces me to buy and eat all these organic vegetables. I get too hung up on the price of everything if I go to the store or even a farmer’s market, and I often end up not buying anything. (I know this is the opposite problem many people have in farmer’s markets, where they tend to go crazy buying all the beautiful produce!)

  6. I love to shop at http://www.wholeandnatural.com. They have all kinds of healthy and natural kosher food and snacks. The stuff is fresh and low prices.
    Debby
    btw I used a coupon bldc08 try it

  7. CSA is just starting up in some areas round here. It’s a great alternative to the organic vege box I get occasionally. I’m hoping there will eventually be one in my area. I’m lucky tho’ because there are quite a few good options for me for vegetables round here.

    I like the surprise element of vege boxes. 😉

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