One of the best commitments we have made this past few years has been committing to a CSA. While many people might pick up their produce at their local grocery, we load up on veggies and fruits with our local farmer.
An acronym for Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA is a group that receives shares of food on a weekly basis from a farm, or a group of farms, in their region. In a CSA, each member supports their local agriculture… directly through that farm/farmer.. with pick up locations being at parks, neighborhood farms, or even fitness centers/schools.
Some CSA’s require a commitment for the season – while some afford you the opportunity to pick up your share on an as needed basis.
1. Buying Local
Most CSA’s get their produce from a single farmer, although sometimes a CSA will also organize a share based on contributions from many farmers. Buying into a CSA is helpful for the farm, because by paying for your seasonal share up front, you are securing them sales through the season. In some cases you can buy additional eggs, meat or even fruit/cheese from your CSA, too.
2. Everything is Fresher
In a CSA, your food is harvested just before pick up.. sometimes, it might even be harvested just hours before your scheduled pick up. Considering that many grocery stores get their produce from California, Yuma area or even Mexico, sometimes it can travel 2-3 days before it even hits store floor displays.
Since your produce is local, it stays fresher for a longer period of time. It doesn’t sit on a hot truck and drive for miles to reach you.
3. It’s Affordable
Some CSA’s require you to purchase your share up front for the season (it usually runs $20 – $25 a week) while some allow you to pay week to week – every CSA may vary.
The produce in our bag is plenty to last a family of 7, but if you are a family of 2 or 3, they also have smaller individual bags, too. Compared to high prices of organic produce at the grocery store, a CSA is much more economical.
4. Discover new foods
Trying new foods is incredibly fun – not to mention a pretty interesting challenge!
Sometimes, when you buy your produce at the store, you stick with the same stuff – things your kids like, or things that you prefer. When in reality, kids really are resilient, and they really WILL eat anything.
Usually you know what you are going to get in your CSA each week, and it’s fun to be able to try NEW things – things you may not have normally purchased. It’s a challenge to create meals based on those items but it can also open the door to trying new foods, too.
5. Saves you Green
When you have a fridge full of fresh produce, it’s incredibly hard to spend money eating out – or, on boxed items. In most cases, you think about the money you spent and you work hard to commit to making something healthy.
What happens when you go to the grocery store for something that’s cheap? You end up leaving with a half of a buggy full of other “stuff” – it happens to everyone.
If you base the bulk of your meal planning on your CSA bag, you will save yourself trips to the grocery store and also to restaurants.
6. You eat better
Having a fridge full of beautiful, fresh, local and colorful produce inspires you to learn how to cook and prepare better foods for your family. Your skills in the kitchen improve as you learn how to cook better items and use up an overabundance of others.
Where do I find a CSA?
Here in Phoenix we are fortunate to have several CSA’s — I’m in the East Valley so the two that pop up first in mind are Taste of Paradise and Desert Roots Farm. If you are not in the Phoenix area, you can visit LocalHarvest.og to find your local CSA.
Taste of Paradise – a local Phoenix CSA with locations all around the East Valley to include Scottsdale. You can order one time or as a regular repeat customer – and choose between full or half share. You will receive a weekly bag of produce that will contain 8 pre-selected varieties of locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables. The produce will vary each week and throughout the seasons, and will come in multiple pounds and quantities.
Desert Roots Farm – another local Phoenix CSA with pick up or delivery available; they have 15+ Valley wide pick up locations and you can opt from a full or half share.
Why Choose a CSA?
There are a myriad of reasons that we belong to a CSA and opt to pick up produce there each week vs. the grocery store. But I think the biggest reason is knowing where our food comes from.
When it comes down to our health, we spend a great deal of time finding professionals that we can entrust with our health and wellness – whether they be doctors, dentists or even wellness professionals. Food is an incredibly important part of reaching better health – so placing a greater importance on knowing someone who takes great care in growing local, organic, pesticide free food is a pretty important thing.
If you are unable to grow your own food, then finding a CSA is a great way to ensure that you are getting the best local food available.