What’s the difference between joining a CSA and shopping at a farmer’s market? Which choice is right for me? These are great questions to ask. Everyone considering joining our CSA should ask them! The reality is that CSA is not a good fit for everyone. It’s best to go into a CSA with your eyes wide open and see if your expectations match the experience that our CSA will give you.
To help you decide if our CSA is a good fit, and before you sign up for this seasonal commitment to our farm, you should ask yourself a few questions:
- Is the relationship to the actual farm and farmers important to you? CSA members want to be able to shake the hand that feeds them and to connect the farmer’s face with the food they prepare for their families. Our CSA members are our friends. We know most all of them by name and enjoy sharing in their lives. Most of our members come out to the farm at least once a season to connect with the fields and the farmers growing their food. There’s something rewarding about knowing you are doing your part to support a local farm and there is a trust that develops between our members and us–that their produce is being grown according to organic standards and is being harvested, washed and cooled safely.
- Do you value having quality produce that actually tastes good? Sad, tasteless grocery store tomatoes in winter. Tiny kale bunches that are wilted and yellow before you even take them home. If you are a good potential CSA member, you know these frustrations well. Taste matters! One of the most important qualities of our returning CSA members is that they love food. Real food. Food that tastes the way it should, because it’s grown with care in healthy soil and harvested right before delivery. Our CSA is all about providing high-quality produce that makes home cooking delicious and easy. If you are looking for a basic celery and carrot at the cheapest price so you can make an iceberg salad, CSA is not your thing!
- Are you willing to try new foods? Really? Our CSA will push you to try new foods and explore variety and seasonality in your kitchen. You will discover some new veggies that you love. You’ll also discover some veggies that you might have to learn to love. While we focus on easy-to-use, desirable, and classic vegetables like lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, carrots and tomatoes, each week your box will contain at least one more unfamiliar item like bok choy, beets, fennel, or kohlrabi for example. We put them in your box because it’s all part of the bigger goal in CSA of cultivating food diversity and teaching our families how to eat seasonally again. However, we will also teach you how to eat them, with photos, storage tips, and recipes in our weekly email newsletter and our CSA member Facebook Group.
- Do you have time to cook and do you need control in your menu planning? Our CSA is a good fit if you cook at least 4-5 dinners at home a week and bring your lunch to work most days out of the week. In addition, are your kids open to eating more veggies or are they very picky eaters? Our CSA is not a good fit if only one member of the household will be eating the produce. A CSA is a great way to incorporate more produce in your diet and improve your health, but that often only works if everyone in your family is on board. CSA members also have to learn to be flexible and creative with their weekly menu. We give you a few days notice about what will be in your box, but being willing to swap out ingredients and make things work in the kitchen makes the experience much smoother. If you really need to stick to your menu plan, you might be better off buying exactly what you want from the farmers market or a grocery store.
- Are You Willing to Work at Eating the CSA Way? CSA takes some time to see results. It may take a season or two to really master making the most of your CSA box. That means you will waste some food early on as you go through your learning curve. There will be many weeks when you have the best intentions to be a super-chef and then real life sets in and you’ll find yourself eating peppers with hummus (nothing wrong there!). But remember: eating more vegetables, even if it’s just with hummus, is already a win. Some veggies may rot in your fridge in a particularly hectic week and that’s okay. Realize that if changing the way you eat is your goal, it takes time to learn the skill sets. We’ll be there to help with tips and tricks and recipes every week of the season. If you can come into the experience with an adventurous spirit and be forgiving of yourself if you fail to eat the whole box at first, then our CSA is a good fit!
- Are You Looking For A Deal? Are You Comparing CSA Prices to the Grocery Store? People who fully embrace the CSA model don’t look for their membership to be a “deal” or a bargain. And they don’t compare the CSA experience to going to the grocery store. It is absolutely understandable to ask, “how much does it cost?” and then weigh the pros and cons. Supporting a CSA financially, however, is not just about doing a cost analysis of each vegetable you receive in your box and comparing it to what you’d pay at Schnucks or at the farmers market. Our vegetables have added value in how they were raised, who raised them, how little they traveled, their quality and freshness, and in the wider story of a sustainable local food system. While our CSA typically gives a great value compared to organic produce at the grocery store, this should not be your primary reason for joining our CSA.
Remember, CSA is just one model out there for getting fresh farm-direct food to your table. We are looking for members who will commit for many years so we want to make sure this is a good fit! If you value the farmer relationship, the quality of the produce and your personal journey in changing the way you eat, then our CSA would be a great opportunity! But there’s no shame in passing on CSA and instead shopping with us at the Schlafly and Tower Grove Farmer’s Market or becoming a regular at our farm stand in Elsah.
Still have questions? Please visit our FAQ or contact us.