Before You Join a CSA

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sign-up for many of next year's community supported agriculture (CSA) programs will begin in January. Before you join, ask yourself these questions:

1. Are you already eating a fair number of vegetables? If not, the CSA is unlikely to change your behavior.

2. Are you willing to experiment? CSA members must be flexible, or they may end up throwing away a great deal of what they get.

3. Will you be in town and eating at home most of the season? Our biggest challenge was time. Between kids' schedules and vacations, there were many weeks when we couldn't use everything up.

4. Can you live with receiving the same produce for weeks in a row? When the peppers come in, they keep coming whether you like them or not.

5. Can you handle unpredictable quantities? I always seemed to have too much of what I didn't like and not enough of what I loved.

6. How involved with the farm do you want to be? Our CSA provided us with weekly newsletters that described life on the farm and the people who were working it. But it never burdened us with many of its challenges. Other CSA newsletters were far more direct in detailing the difficulties of the farm.

7. How much order do you need? Some CSAs prepare your share, filling a reusable bag that you simply pick up. More patience is required at the CSAs that set out crates and have members line up and pack their own bags, taking proscribed quantities.

8. Are you willing to suffer if bad weather conditions, infestations or poor farming practices leave you with little to show for your investment? Even in a perfect growing season, not all farmers are equally successful. Most seasons are far from perfect.

9. Could you have a similar experience by visiting farm stands and farmers markets? If you think so, you might want to go that route.

10. Would being part of a food community be rewarding for you? I really enjoyed running into other members at the pickup site, sharing experiences and being part of a group of people who care about what they eat.

-- Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

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