When I first looked at my friend’s CSA box, I hadn’t expected there to be a ton of savings built in, since there wasn’t a ton in the box. Sure enough, there were 3lbs of heirloom tomatoes, but I hadn’t expected that they alone would be the “cost” of the entire CSA box! Just as a reminder, the program my friend is in works differently than the one I’ve been using; it’s more open-ended, in that you pay for a season and you keep reaping as long as there’s a season and stuff’s still growing. Mine is a week-by-week program, so there’s no up-front commitment. And, as my friend noted, if he picks his own, he gets substantially more than I saw in the “picked for me” box. So there’s that, too. In other words, if you’re interested in getting some serious value, going in on a program like this may be better – assuming you can absorb the up-front payment and don’t want/prefer to buy on a weekly basis.
For my part, having the flexibility of opting out of a given week’s box is a really fabulous thing, since some boxes have more or less of what I want. It’s also nice not having the pressure of trying to find someone else to pick up the veg if I’m not around, Lastly, I like fruit – and there’s no fruit in my friend’s program due to space constraints and such. I realize that some, like Tammy, don’t get fruit in their boxes (and she wishes she did!), but having had it last year…I’m
spoiled used to it. I want my fruit, too. The big perk I wish my program had is the one my sister’s CSA (at yet another farm) has…a bin for trading items that you don’t want. It’s like a “leave a veg, take a veg” box. WANT. This would give me a place to put all those extra cukes without making so much tzatziki that we’re drowning in it. But I digress…
In other words, lots of pros on either side, and a few cons on each side (mine’s more expensive than his, but I get flexibility that he doesn’t have, etc.). What this does speak to is the incredible variation in programs in my area.
Here’s how things worked out for my friend’s box – going off a base of $13.89 assumed price per week, based on (approximately) 18 weeks in the $250 season:
|Year 2 – Summer Week 10|
|Grocery Store Unit Price (per lb)||Grocery Store Total Item Cost|
|Boston Lettuce (head)||1.00||$2.29||$2.29|
|Cherry Tomatoes (pint)||1.00||$3.99||$3.99|
|Grocery Store Total Cost||$22.57|
|Year 2 Summer Week 10 Savings (Deficit)||$8.68|
If you live in Eastern Mass or Rhode Island, I can definitely say that it’s hard NOT to have access to a decent CSA. So, feel free to explore. If you’re not in this area and you don’t know where to go to get in on one, use the CSA locator on the Local Harvest web site and see what’s in your area. Clearly, it can be worth it. BIG TIME. And if you don’t have a CSA nearby, check your grocery store for signs that say “I’m Local!”. Even our local BJ’s clubs now carry local veg. This may not have the price savings built in, but it will help you get fresher items from local farms, and that’s pretty awesome all by itself.