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CSA or Farmers’ Market?

I’ve been part of a CSA for the last two years (since I moved to San Francisco). Beyond that, my educational and professional experience in the agricultural industry provides an intimate look into organic farm production. My friend Farah asked me the other day why I choose to do a CSA—after all, it’s a big commitment!

Shopping at the farmers market is great and a way to directly help your farmers put food on your table as well as theirs.

But here are some reasons to consider committing to a CSA (community supported agriculture) program.

1. Farmer’s bills are primarily seasonal, meaning they spend a whole bunch of money up front before the harvest season for seed, fuel, equipment, etc. As a CSA member, you can pay for the entire CSA up front, thus completely defraying the farmer’s cost for providing you with your share.

2. Mother Nature can wreak havoc on agricultural production. So even if you have to pay your farmers every three months because of your personal financial situation, that farmer has a guaranteed income despite what nature throws at her. CSAs also help farmers plant according to a specific need, thus reducing wasteful spending and labor.

3. Ever since I joined a CSA, I eat much better. Better not only in that eating organic/biodynamic is better for the environment and your body, but also better in the sense that this stuff is FRESH and farmers give their CSA members the best of what they have and then they go to the farmers’ markets. It is also better for me, and this is the best point of all, because I eat my vegetables. When you are given a bushel basket of premium produce each week, there is an obligation. And I know it’s for that very reason that most of us choose NOT to do a CSA, but I swear that obligation has made me healthier. To be forced to eat tasty and nutritionally balanced food is one of the best obligations you can “burden” yourself with.

4. Along with the point above, all that produce also obligates you to use it throughout the week. The best way to do this and prevent waste is to plan your meals as soon as you get the CSA for that week (for me, it’s on Saturdays). I’m sure you’ve heard that if you walk into the grocery without a list, you end up spending a lot more. When you plan your meals, you plan your grocery list simultaneously. It just makes your planning so much easier, just in general.

5. It’s fun. Most farms hold potlucks or other special events for members. Our farm throws a peach party the first week of each August.

I think if you can commit to the amount of food (some CSAs allow their members to split their share, if its too much ... but I make do just fine. Most of the time I am cooking for one) and you really believe its important to support our local farmers, you should definitely consider a CSA.

Here’s a scenario: I went to our local farmers market the other day. It was late, about fifteen minutes to close, I was walking past the tents and tables. There was a farmer practically begging for people to buy his from his table, still loaded with cherries. The farmers’ markets are unpredictable, sometimes they sell their wares well, sometimes not. Now I’m sure something good happened to those leftover cherries, hopefully they got donated or were given to friends or the community at large. But what if they didn’t? I’ve always been meaning to ask my farmers what happens to farmers’ market surplus. Now I think I will.

I know a lot of you have considered signing up for a CSA before. Do you have questions still? Concerns? Other reasons why a CSA is better for you and your family? Comment below!