It’s CSA Time Again!

Posted on January 24, 2011 by Courtney

Please welcome today’s guest poster, Jamison.

This is the time of year when it’s time to start thinking about getting involved in your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Most of them have an open enrollment right now for any open shares they have available.

In the past Allie posted a year’s worth of her CSA goodies and Dianne has spent a great deal of time working on recipes for all the stuff she gotten from our CSA. But if you’ve never had experience with a CSA it’s a slightly daunting task when you first start out.


Basically, most CSAs charge you one large upfront fee and deliver you some amount of vegetables over their growing season. The yearly subscription fee usually scares most people from considering a CSA. In my area, for example, they can range anywhere from from a few hundred up to a thousand dollars a year, and if you’ve never seen what gets delivered before, that seems like a wild gamble to take.

The key thing is to get a sense of the prices and options in your area. Local Harvest keeps a fairly good list of CSAs depending on your area for you to pick from. This will give you a sense of the average subscription requirements in your area.

Another matter for concern is the level of involvement that the CSA requires. Some CSAs like for people to come out and pick their own food, which can be a fun exercise if you are into such things. My wife’s sister and kids go out to their CSA and hand-pick their food a few weeks a year for fun. I, on the other hand, would rather walk blindfolded through 10 lanes of on coming traffic than go outside in the summer time. So it’s one of the things you need to take into consideration when you are picking a CSA. Most will give a lot of details on what’s required. Find the CSA that best meets your needs and interests.

Location, location, location

This can also end up in the cost category if you aren’t careful. Joining a great CSA doesn’t help you out in the long run if you have to drive long distances to get the CSA pickup. Most CSAs will have a regular location where you can pick up your share. Some will have multiple locations that the pickup can be made. A lot of them are also participating in farmers’ markets, so you may be able to collect them at the farm or at the farmers’ markets as well. A few have additional locations and some even have home delivery as well, which is really nice. My wife’s current CSA has home delivery via biodiesel power delivery trunks so her share shows up on our front door step sometime on the delivery day.

Originally we did a more regular CSA where it had to be picked up on the farm itself. Every Wednesday when I got off of work I’d head out towards the farm and collect her share. Once again we picked it because it was located very close to my office, making it economical for us to collect our share.


Most CSAs have taken to writing up very long-winded, legal-sounding disclaimers about how much will be in a given share in a given week. Basically, good sense should apply here. Some years everything can go wrong. It’s not easy being a farmer in the best of times, but it appears that CSA members in the past have gotten a little irritable because the shares have seemed a bit light or been nonexistent because of weather conditions. These things should be a rarity under most circumstances. For example, when we had the CSA near my office, they lost entire crops of fruit-bearing plants because of a hailstorm so their tomato and berry crops were lost. That falls under a generic acts-of-God sort of clause. As a general rule, total destruction of every single crop on a farm is probably a real long shot at best. So as ominous as it sounds, it’s not a realistic concern, and if does happen, you’d probably want to be more focused on helping your CSA get back on its feet than what kinds of veggies are going to be in your share next week.

After doing several for several years, I can’t emphasize how important it is to get involved in these local food opportunities. Even on the worst week in our CSAs we broke even compared to the cost of things in the grocery store. And the better weeks we came out way ahead. So if you haven’t given it a try yet, this is the year to do it!


  1. Thanks for this great info, Jamison! I have never done a CSA before, but I really want to this year.

    January 24th, 2011 at 10:45 am
    Comment by Courtney
  2. I was converted last year when we signed up for the Local Harvest CSA in Concord, NH. Wolf and I got way, way more than we could eat so I made a lot of soups for the winter with the extra and our chickens were well fed from the greens that turned quickly in the summer heat.

    CSAs aren’t just for veggies. Friends of ours decided to create a meat CSA. Those who purchase a share will get eggs and meats from a variety of farm animals.

    Because we’re trying to move to another state Wolf and I aren’t sure if we can do a CSA this year because we don’t know when we’re moving. I cannot explain how sad this makes me!

    January 24th, 2011 at 10:51 am
    Comment by Howling Hill
  3. Yes ours is pretty awesome about delivering other products. We have a wide selection of cheeses, eggs, breads, meats and so on. I focused on the traditional CSA, but these days are rapidly diversifying into everything you need to survive. Some of them have reached the point that you don’t really need to go the grocery store because they’ve got so much that they’ll put on your front door step for a few bucks a week. I was looking at one from a friend of mine last week, they deliver a side of beef to your front door 500lbs of beef. Cut to your specifications. The local movement is definitely coming into it’s own some places.

    January 24th, 2011 at 12:17 pm
    Comment by Jamison
  4. I desperately wish I could support a CSA! I just do not like enough vegetables! I have tried repeatedly to expand my pallet, but I fail every time. It’s actually really depressing, because I LOVE the idea of veggies. I actually cook with a few just so my food has some color, and then I pick them all back out! The only veggies I CAN eat have to be RAW. I cannot handle cooked veggies unless they’re greens!

    January 24th, 2011 at 1:22 pm
    Comment by Christina
  5. Christina you probably need a non-traditional CSA then. Do a search on Dairies or Creameries in your area. In our area, our Creamery does a CSA as well as milk and meat deliveries. Community Supported Agriculture is about supporting local farmers in your area. Nothing says it has to be exclusively in the vegetable arena. That’s just been the traditional method that farmers have taken up until this point. There are lots of options to allow you to have a win-win relationship with your Local Farmers.

    January 24th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
    Comment by Jamison
  6. Thanks Jamison- I keep threatening to join a CSA and maybe this is the year!

    January 25th, 2011 at 2:03 am
    Comment by Rob
  7. Well if you’ve been waiting for a year this is the one for you! Magic Bean Urban Farm looks like a good choice in your area.They offer local delivery as well for just $4.50 so you don’t have to worry about going to pick it up if your in their delivery area. Definitely something you should give a try if you can.

    January 25th, 2011 at 10:49 am
    Comment by Jamison
  8. The best part about this post is the timing. I always think about joining a CSA right around July, when it’s far too late. Thanks for the heads-up, Jamison.

    January 25th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
    Comment by mickey
  9. We always thought of it around March and they usually have started or are completely booked up by then. Best to get in at this point, before everyone has started thinking about it again. They send out reminders to all the previous year’s participants so once you are in, it’s easy to stay in.

    January 25th, 2011 at 5:02 pm
    Comment by Jamison
  10. [...] is the time of year when it’s time to start thinking about getting involved in your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Most of them have an open enrollment right now for any open shares they have [...]

    January 28th, 2011 at 10:32 am
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