Last week, I discussed the benefits of shopping at a farmers’ market as a way to decrease your organic grocery costs. Joining a CSA – or a Community Supported Agriculture group – is another method for lowering your grocery bill and ensuring that your whole family eats more organic food.
So, what the heck is a CSA, anyway?
A CSA connects local farmers and consumers. At the beginning of the CSA period, consumers ‘buy into’ the CSA, paying a flat rate to receive several months’ worth of the farmers harvest. Every week, a box of fresh vegetables and fruits is delivered to the consumers. Some CSAs deliver right to your door, but other ones drop off the boxes at a central location, such as a church. The coolest thing about CSAs is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get.
CSAs cost anywhere from $15 to $30 a week and usually last three to six months, depending on the local growing season. Some CSAs offer additional packages so consumers can ‘add on’ eggs, meat, and bread products to the produce box for a small fee.
More often than not, CSAs are organic, although they may not be certified organic. The USDA’s certification process is costly and complicated, so many local farmers cannot afford to get certified. If you’re interested in joining a CSA, be sure to talk to the farmers’ representative about whether the produce is organic and how they ensure farmers maintain organic standards.
Like farmers’ markets, CSAs are a fun and cost-effective way to not only support local farmers and encourage organic agriculture practices, but also to save money and reduce time at the grocery store. If you join a CSA, I’m sure you’ll find you eat a greater variety of healthy vegetables and fruits than ever before – after all, there’s no excuse when the goodies show up right on your doorstep!
To find a CSA near you, check out Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org), which offers a database of more than 4,000 American CSAs.
Image source: Local Harvest