I mentioned in my last post that our CSA is keeping me well in veggies for this cleanse I’m doing. I’ve had a lot of questions about the CSA, what is it, where is it, how much does it cost and what do we get – so after picking up our share last night, I took a picture and compared some costs to share… uh… the share.
First off, for those unfamiliar with a CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. From Wikipedia:
[It] consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
We pay for an entire season’s worth of produce up front, and
Thus, individuals, families or groups do not pay for x pounds or kilograms of produce, but rather support the budget of the whole farm and receive weekly what is seasonally ripe. This approach eliminates the marketing risks and costs for the producer and an enormous amount of time, often manpower too, and allows producers to focus on quality care of soils, crops, animals, co-workers — and on serving the customers. There is financial stability in this system which allows for thorough planning on the part of the farmer, and emotional investment on the part of the members. (Wikipedia)
Our particular CSA is Kitsilano Farms. And from what you can see, we certainly receive a LOT of produce in a typical week (click to go to the flickr page where there are notes, to see the specifics of what we get):
In terms of value for dollar, the share purchase was $475 for 20 weeks of produce (which turned into 21 weeks because of an early boom of harvest-ready produce). That puts us at $22.62 per week. We’ve always felt like we were getting amazing value for the haul of goods we brought home every week, but just for kicks, I priced out what our share would cost in the grocery store downstairs, the local farmer’s market or from a local grocery delivery. I’ve picked the average prices for everything, here’s how it all adds up:
Spring Onions – $0.89/bunch
Komatsuna – $0.99/bunch
Rhubarb – $1.50/500g
Garlic – $0.85/head
Radishes – 1.50/bunch
3 big heads leaf lettuce – $1.50 each
Beet Greens – $1.99/bunch
Raspberries – $5.99/pint
2 heads Red Romaine – $1.50 each
3 Turnips – $2.25/lb (about 1 lb)
That all adds up to $23.46. It’s not a big savings, but it is a savings over time for the entire growing season. It’s also forcing us to eat a LOT more veggies, since we know a new batch is coming every week, and we’ve already paid for it (no “stopping delivery because we’ve tossed the last two weeks’ worth in the compost” for this).
In fact, we went a bit CSA happy this year, we’ve also signed up for a Grain CSA, and will visit our wheat in a couple weeks, with delivery of our 20kg of whole wheat flour showing up sometime in late summer/early fall (baking anyone?).
We also have plans to join a Wine CSA, and are actively keeping our eyes out for a meat CSA as well if anyone knows of anything going on.
Now we didn’t leap suddenly into farm-sourced eating. We’ve been moving down this road over the past year or so. Thankfully, with the larger influence of food-security related movements, it’s becoming much easier to source things that are being grown in a sustainable way and develop relationships with the producers.
CSA’s aren’t for everyone – it’s a big stretch in mindset and lifestyle to go from planning meals based on what you want (or not planning, and just grabbing things at the last minute) to figuring out from week to week “what can I make out of what these farmers have given me?”. At least, it’s a stretch in North America for the way most of us live. It’s actually just the way of things in much of the rest of the world, and was the same here until the dawn of industrial agriculture.
Despite the shock and awe value of films coming out now like Food, Inc., the writings of Michael Pollan and the fuss over the White House organic food garden, I don’t expect a sea-change in the way many people in the industrialized world get their food. But if I can have a hand in making sure a few more small farmers survive, ensure a biodiversity of crops, and reduce the risk of salmonella in my (and a few others’) spinach as a result, well that’s a pretty exciting thing to me.
As Wendel Berry famously said, “Eating is an Agricultural Act,” and I’m certainly enjoying playing my part.