Curious About CSAs?

First delivery of the 2011 season

I’ve been asked several times in the last  week about CSA food boxes.  (Clearly the cold, gray days of winter have us all thinking about summer veggies.) So, I thought it was time to get some discussion going about this alternative method of buying food, as CSA sign ups are starting.

What is a CSA you ask?  Well, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is a system through which customers sign up for a share in the farm at the beginning of the season, and receive a weekly (generally) basket of food from the farm.  Boxes vary depending on the season.  While most CSAs in Nova Scotia are for vegetables and fruit, there are some people doing meat, fish, bread and full meal CSAs.

We talked a lot about CSAs on the blog last season.  In order to avoid repetition, here are some highlights:

The Little Box That Could
Making the Most of your CSA Box
A Week of CSA Meals

I, personally, love getting a CSA box, but it’s not for everyone.  How do you know if a CSA is for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

– Where am I on Saturday morning (or whenever the farmers market is in your city or town)?  If you love going to the farmers market, keep going to the farmers market.  If you work on Saturday morning or it’s not feasible to go to the market or if you prefer to spend your Saturday with a cup of coffee and the crossword puzzle, then maybe a CSA is a good option for you.

-How do I cook?  If you follow recipes to the letter and plan out every meal far in advance, CSA might not be for you.  If you’re cooking style is more laid back and you’re creative in the kitchen, then CSA might be for you.  I love peeking in a veggie box on Wednesday afternoon and seeing what’s new for the week.  Most farmers do include regular items each week.  The CSA I subscribe to almost always had greens, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.  Then there were another 4-5 vegetables that changed week to week.

-How much do I cook?  According to a survey of CSA customers done by the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network, the main reason that CSA customers don’t sign up for a second year is because the box contained too much food.  And people don’t like to waste food.  If you eat out multiple nights of the week, a CSA might not be for you.  If you generally cook at home, it’s a good option.  Another option is to share a box with another household.  Last year when my roommates were out of town, I would split the box with a friend.

Other things I love about CSAs:
– My workplace is a drop-off location.  Wednesday afternoons in the summer & fall, my weekly vegetables arrive at the office.  Easy-peasy.
– The price. Last year I paid $560, which worked out to $28/week.  This was enough vegetables and fruit for myself and 2 roommates (though we would occasionally supplement with additional veggies from the market) and later in the season, myself and my partner (and we had to freeze a few things). I don’t know what the price will be this year, but I plan to sign up again.
– Vegetables I might not have otherwise purchased.  Some might see this as a drawback, but I like trying new foods.

CSA drawbacks, because it’s not a perfect system:
– Sometimes I miss going to the market.  It is pretty fun in the summer.  And sometimes I still end up at the market anyway (on weeks I didn’t intend to) because I still need cheese, tofu, meat, herbs, etc.
-Sometimes you want more or less of something.  I can eat seemingly endless quantities of tomatoes and basil, but I sometimes get sick of lettuce.

Want to know more about CSAs?  Leave me a comment below. And stay tuned for additional CSA posts, including “How to Set-up a Workplace CSA Drop-off” and an updated list of CSAs for 2012.

Yours in Food,


10 thoughts on “Curious About CSAs?

  1. Well said Marla. I pick up the box at the local market (on Charles street) and can get cheese, bread and so on at the same time. My groceries are almost done exclusively there and the people are really welcoming. It is surely a weekly pleasure.

  2. bonjour,
    ma family subscribe to one of the farmers for csa2012. but we not satisfied with the quality And quantity at all. we got produce 4 times. can we still quit? unfortunately, i paid whole amount. can the farmer return my remaining money back?


    1. That’s too bad, John. I know that after being a CSA partner for about eight years in Manitoba and here in Nova Scotia – there can be good years and bad years, even with the same farmer. The weather can be lousy, bugs can attack – all of these things that organic farmers have certain tricks to combat, but can’t eradicate completely. The next year, you can be blessed with amazing weather, and share in a farmer’s fantastic bumper crop.
      I’d suggest talking to other CSA members that were really happy with their share, and keep trying to find a CSA that gives you good value. There’s lots of them out there! 🙂

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