I really like the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. CSA programs provide a way for consumers to buy food directly from farmers. There are many different models and these days you can find CSA shares for just about anything; vegetables, fruit, flowers, mushrooms, eggs, dairy, meat, fish… the list goes on. You can learn more CSAs, and find your own, here.
Over the past two years I have participated in CSA farms through work-share memberships. I worked at the farm for 3-6 hours each week during the season and I got the equivalent of a full-share of veggies in return. It was a great experience to grow my own food and I found it very relaxing to work on the farm each week – which is interesting considering how much I hated being “forced” to work in the garden with my mother when I was younger. Hmm.
This year I have decided that I will not be doing a work-share. I’m still unsure about it, I know I’ll end up going to volunteer days.
Most farms near me offer either vegetables or fruit, not a combination of the two. Although I have noticed that more and more farms are offering fruit add-on options. And many farms will grow melons that are included in shares towards the end of the season (pictured!). Still, the majority of the stone fruit is grown on the Western Slope. There are a few farms on the Front Range that produce their own stone fruit but they’re a rarity compared to the veggie CSAs, and the price definitely reflects that.
I will be getting CSA shares from two veggie farms, one fruit farm, and one poultry farm.
Since I have loved my two CSA experiences I wanted to encourage as many people as possible to join me in supporting local farms (and a few have!) but I’ve come to realize that most people are extremely intimidated by the upfront cost. My employer offered an incentive for employees to get together and join a CSA. Incentive being, they paid for part of it. WIN! But even with a 20% off option it was a struggle to get the eight people that we have. It’s a huge investment, I get it. But I truly believe that it’s well worth it and I want to explore that this season through this blog.
Each week I will record the equivalent value of what my CSA share would cost at both the farmer’s market and grocery store. I think doing both is important because the prices of organic local produce vs organic produce at a chain can be drastically different. For the market I will average prices from several farms and for the grocery store I will get prices from the same store each week. I realize that some things may not be available for comparative pricing so I’ll have to give it my best guess or I could potentially use the market value, we’ll see.
I got the fruit share last year and I loosely kept track, it was definitely worth it compared to market value. Some weeks there was too much fruit and since I didn’t can last year I ended up giving it away or freezing it… now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty certain that I have peaches left. The fruit share runs through October, I still had apples left in December. I used them to make apple butter because they had started to get soft, which turned out to be an excellent decision. Have you ever had apple butter? I can’t wait to make some more! This year I’m hoping to purchase a canning share as well; organic seasonal fruit for $1.09/lb that I can put up and enjoy all winter long? YES, PLEASE!
So, that’s the plan for now. I’m hoping that this will be an incentive for more people to save up for a CSA. Thanks for reading 🙂