Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Value of a CSA

CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are sprouting up all over the country. I first heard of them last year when a friend of mine told me about the wonderful vegetables and fruit that she and her husband were getting from one of the local CSA's.

With a CSA you not only get LOCALLY grown vegetables and fruit at a great price, but in some cases you can event get them delivered.  My husband and I have made a renewed effort in the last few weeks to incorporate more fruits and vegatables into our diet and have quickly realized that there's a high price to pay for eating healthy, and there's rarely any coupons available for this type of food.  However, there are ways to save some money and CSAs may (or may not) be one way to do it.

Here in North AL, I've found two different CSA possibilities.  The first is Doe Run Farms out of TN. This is the CSA that my friend, Amanda, is a member of and having seen pictures of the quality of the produce that she gets each week, it's quite amazing.  Not only that but the amounts of produce that she gets for the price is quite good as well.  A mini-share with Doe Run Farms will run you $495 for 18 weeks (they run the shares by season and to get in on the Spring/Summer share we have to sign up by next weekend - that's if there's even any room left).  $495 over 18 weeks averages out to $27.50/wk.  From what I've seen of my friend's shares, I think this is probably equavalent to Grow Alabama's Silver (mid-level) share.  So probably a better price per unit, however you do take the risk of getting items your household may not eat.  Doe Run Farms added a few different add-on packages this year, to allow those who want to get more tomatoes, cheese or fruit than what comes in their normal share.  Of course, these extra packages do cost extra in addition to your normal share price.

The second CSA which I just came across today, is Grow Alabama.  This is an organization of farmers from across AL, with drop-off points in various locations (their website says they even do home and office delivery).  They have 3 different levels, the smallest (the Bronze share) is $24.75/wk.  The share that I believe is most equivalent to the small share at Doe Run Farms, is the Silver share at $31.25/wk (which gives you 6 different items, with 4-5 servings of each).  There's no set time you have to stay in the program but they do require a 30-day cancellation notice (during which time you will continue to receive - and pay for- your share).  The biggest upside I see to this program is that you can customize your share box by logging in each week and choosing from what is currently available, or you can select to permanently substitute and item that you know your household will NEVER eat.  Their website also provides a chart as to which items are available during which months, to allow you to easily see what you might be getting.  Another plus I see is that since this is a co-op of farmers, there ideally would be more variety than if you were getting everything from just one farm.  From their website and from the lady at one of their drop-off points that I talked to today, they also offer add-ons of a variety of items from fresh eggs to chickens and various meats.

We actually spent about the same amount last week at Kroger, and if we continue on these healthy eating habits will likely be spending this much every week..  However, at Kroger we got to pick out exactly what we wanted, and chances are that with doing a CSA we'd still be at the grocery store filling in some of the items that may not be in season.  Actually, we spent about $28 at Kroger and then another $10 between CostCo (for salad mix) and a local vegetable stand (tomatoes & onions).  I like the flexibility of the Grow Alabama program, however there's still the fear of waste.  Granted, there could just as easily be waste when we buy from the grocery store or the roadside stand, if we don't eat it.  Knowing that we will be getting more each week should encourage us to eat it.

What are your thoughts? Would this save you money? Have you ever joined a CSA? Did you find it worthwhile?

No comments:

Post a Comment