Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is a Farm Share Worth It?

We are heading towards the end of April and we are still looking for people to join our CSA program.  So, if you know of someone - or if you ARE that someone - let us try to convince you to join us.

We've had a few people tell us they cannot afford a share.  And, we fully recognize that each family's finances are their own and every situation is different.  Things happen, not everyone has alot of money to throw around and we don't want to tell anyone what they can and cannot afford.

However, please be patient and read this.  There is a myth out there about what is expensive and what is not.  

Well - let's try CHEAP first.

You can go to a certain fast food chain and get one of their inexpensive "Smiley Meals" for something between 4 and 5 dollars a piece.  So, let's split the difference and say it costs $4.50.  A family of four eats for $18.

Once you've eaten the meal, it is done.  You don't need me to preach about healthy eating right now, this is only about cost.  One meal in a week where one expects to eat 14 to 21 meals (depending on whether you are a 2 or 3 a day meal family, I suppose).

A CSA Share is Too Expensive?

A regular sized CSA share costs you $340 for 20 weeks of produce.  $17 per week.

While we grant you that this does not account for ALL of the food you will need to get through the week, we can also tell you that you'll have product that can be a part of more than one meal.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, you get a bunch of carrots, a head of leaf lettuce, 2 summer squash, 2 zucchini, 4 cucumbers, a bag of green beans, a bundle of kale, a couple of onions and a head of broccoli for one week's share.  And, please remember, some weeks will garner you much more than this.  Some others, early in the season, may have less.  But, in general, this is a conservative estimate on a weekly delivery.

Your family could use the summer squash, zucchini and an onion in one meal, the green beans could be the vegetable in another meal and broccoli in a third meal.  You could sautee the kale with another onion for a fourth meal.  The carrots and cucumbers could be snacks for lunches.  So. let's say the cukes cover one lunch and the carrots get another.  You now have parts of six meals for the week at a cost that is LESS than a single meal at the "un-named" establishment.
Belstar broccoli, ready to pick.

Or, let's put it another way.  If you have $18 to spend per meal, then it is seems fair to say that you just applied $17 to SIX meals by doing a CSA share.  Split that evenly...well, $17 doesn't split evenly.  But,

$2.83 cents has been applied to each of your 6 meals using CSA produce.  Isn't that great?  You still have $15.17 cents left to spend on other things for your meal.  If you MUST, go get three of the "Smiley Meals" and split the fries evenly. But, you should eat the carrots first.

St Valery carrots.  Lunch time is munch time.
Other Considerations

Life is always more complicated than the scenario I've painted, of course. 

What if your family hates kale?  Ok, do the numbers over FIVE meals.  It still comes out favorably.  Consider also that a program such as ours often pairs something like kale with another vegetable in an effort to respond to things like that.

Curly Blue Scotch kale - some love it, some don't

What if your family loves beans and a single bag that weighs 3/4 pound isn't enough to make all of you happy?  Well, if we have excess, we often sell excess.  If we don't, often someone at the farmers' market has plenty they'd like you to buy.  Remember, you have an extra $15.17 to spend on EACH meal.  An extra $2 or $3 could get you those extra green beans.

Is it a time thing?  You don't have time to make the meals?  We understand.  We admit that we also eat out too often because time and energy are in low supply.  Nonetheless, you have to admit that munching on a cucumber or a carrot takes little to no time to prepare.  Broccoli tastes fine raw - and if you need it, it isn't hard to find a ranch dressing or other dipping sauce to go with it.  It takes the time to open a bottle and pour a little onto a plate or into a bowl.  Tear up some leaf lettuce and put a little dressing on it.  Not much time there.  Or make a sandwich and put some lettuce on that.  Heck, take your lettuce to the fast food place and put it on your sandwich!  It'll taste better than the iceberg stuff they have anyway.
Mmmm. Grandpa Admires lettuce
  Beans take a few minutes to steam.  If you're really pressed for time, slap a pat of butter on it in the pot and give everyone a fork and stand around the stove to eat.  Family time!

So, it sounds like you might need to do a little preparation to use the summer squash, zucchini and onions.  But, the rest is pretty easy if you need it to be.

Black Beauty zucchini.  Sautee with some sweet onions on the grill!

Will a CSA Farm Share Work for Everyone?
Of course it doesn't. 

Some families just don't fit this model.  And, that's fine.  It is important for a CSA customer to understand exactly what it is that they are getting into so they can make the most of what they receive.  It is best for them AND for the farmer if they are on board with how the program works.  Add a little bit of patience to learn how to take the best advantage of a CSA and you have a winner.  Many second year members tell us how much more they enjoy the program after they've gotten one year of experience to look back on.  In fact, some of our third year members have told us that they feel much more adventuresome than they did before and really feel like they take full advantage of their membership.

But, this is a completely different issue.  It isn't so much a matter of expense - it is a matter of how a family works.

So, if you're pinching the pennies and thought a CSA program costs too much.  Look at your budget and ask if $17 worth of produce per week fits.  If it doesn't and you're being honest with yourself about where your food money goes, then that is fine.  If it does, then we have a place for you this season.


  1. Amen! It is totally worth every penny spent, you just have to budget for it in advance.

  2. An excellent point Alaina. Yes, it does require some budgeting. But, I suspect most CSA's are willing to work with people to design whatever payment plan is needed. Very few of the CSA farmers I know want to price produce out of range of people on a tight budget.

    Instead, they want a fair price so they can pay their bills while bringing good food to good people.

  3. t'is a great article and whenever someone posts that they can't afford to buy organic or even vegetables, I post this


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