What To Look for in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program

What to look for in a CSAWhile CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs are not a new idea, many people don’t know how readily available healthful, locally grown produce can be when  one becomes a member of a CSA.


What is a CSA, exactly?

A CSA is a direct relationship between consumers and farmers. Instead of going to the supermarket and buying some grapes from Chile and tomatoes from Florida,  you contract with a local farmer to give him or her a certain amount of money (or a combination of money and labor) for a certain amount of produce, eggs, cheese, herbs, or anything else the farm offers.

Some CSA’s have a work requirement, which means that part of the consumer’s payment is in the form of a certain number of hours working on the farm. Not all CSA’s require this, though (the one I use doesn’t).

You can read more about WHY to join a CSA here.

In the local Rochester area, we are very lucky to have a large number of CSA programs to choose from. Here are some questions you should ask before you join:

Do you get a choice over what you get or is your CSA prepackaged?

The choice is good for people who want some control over what they receive; the prepackaged may be better for busy people who don’t want to deal with picking their produce.
How much does the CSA help you with the transition? Recipes? Information?

Using a CSA can be a life change when you’re used to making a list, going to the store, and planning every meal. Having someone at pickup to answer questions and/or having a weekly newsletter with recipes and information goes a long way in easing the transition.  My CSA, Wickham Farms, has Pinterest boards for nearly every vegetable that they offer! This helps when you’re trying to figure out how to use Kohlrabi, for example. (I love Kohlrabi slaw!)

What farming methods does the CSA use? Is it certified organic?

It is important to feel comfortable with the farming methods used to grow your food. Some CSAs are certified organic, some are not. In my personal opinion, the designation of organic is less important than the care and attention the farmers use. Organic certification costs money and has very strict requirements. I feel comfortable as long as the farm uses sustainable methods and practices, with an eye towards natural and holistic solutions. Also, how locally the food is produced is very important to me.

Do I pick it up or is it dropped off to my home or workplace?

Some CSA programs are starting to deliver to popular workplaces or community centers, or even your home. This may be more convenient for busy families. Most CSAs offer farm pickup as well.

What if I’m on vacation one (or more) weeks?

Most CSA programs will either let you forfeit the week’s share. Some will allow you to donate it to a particular organization. What I’ve done when I’ve been out of town is arrange to have a friend pick it up and use it that week.



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  2. […] belong to a CSA and get my fresh produce and herbs directly from Wickham Farms 20 weeks of the […]