Would you love to have fresh, local veggies delivered to your neighborhood or home each week? Do you live in an urban food desert as I do and going to the store is a pain? If so, a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture box may be for you. There are a lot of benefits to participating in this type of community but there are also some considerations to make as well when you are looking ahead for summer planning. Read on to learn more about whether this type of service will fit your lifestyle and if it is right for you as you consider the benefits and negatives of having a CSA box this year:
I have been a CSA member for years in Chicago and love getting my veggie box when I’m not at the Farmer’s Market in Logan Square on Saturdays. Grocery shopping from a farm is so much more appealing than the aisles of colorful boxes and cans in the grocery store to me. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and while CSAs can come in different formats, we go to a central location each Saturday (generally someone’s garage) to pick up our box full of whatever was grown on the farm the past week.
The Chicagoist ran a really great article recently about choosing your Chicago CSA. In the article, they
list four popular CSA choices for those of us who live too deep in the city to go to the farm ourselves each week. The CSA I usually use is on there: Angelic Organics out of Caledonia, Illinois. There are other good resources for Chicago residents to find a CSA that works for them including the Find a Chicago Area CSA which has an updated copy of all available 2015 CSA programs in the Chicago area and the Local Beet which is a great resource for all things food and farming year round including winter markets and an active blog.
When considering a CSA of your own, consider the location of drop off or pick-up. Some can come directly to your home but if you are like me, that might not be the most secure drop off if you are away often. Some offer sites locally that you can walk or drive to pick up the box while others you may have to travel further to a centralized location. Day of the week for pick-up may be important to you, in my experience, the boxes are often delivered on Saturdays. Finally, how much produce can you use? We share a box with our neighbors which works very well and I’m not sure that two people could use an entire box of veggies, especially since we go out several times per week as well. The guides listed above can help you figure out what will work best for you. And while it is not too late to start for the 2015 year, CSA boxes will be starting soon so if you are interested, best to find your farmer soon.
Benefits of a CSA
- Support local farmers
- Increase your veg intake
- Learn about new produce you’ve never seen before
- Cook more and getting creative with veggies
- Save money and time at the grocery store
- Become part of a community of like-minded people
Challenges of a CSA
- Generally you pay for the whole season up front
- If you travel a lot as I do, picking up the box and/or using all of it can be a challenge
- You might have a week where you get a LOT of one item
- If you also like to shop at the farmers market, it can be a lot of produce in your life
What do you think? Have you tried a CSA before? Any benefits or challenges you have experienced that I left off? Looking forward to hearing from you!
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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