Reflecting on the CSA, 2010

Was it worth it?

I kept track of the weekly share items for the entire season.  A scrap of paper held to the side of my refrigerator kept growing with each week.  I certainly have personal reasons why buying produce straight from the farmer was important to me and my family, but I wanted to know if it was “worth it” financially.   First here’s a breakdown of the food we received this year in our CSA:

Leafy Greens Beets, bunch 6
Kale, bunch 5 Broccoli, head 4
leaf lettuce, head 6 Butternut squash 7
boston lettuce, head 1 cantaloupe 2
Spinach, loose 2 Cauliflower, head 1
salad mix, bagged 5 Celery, bunch 3
escarole 1 cherry tomatoes, pint 2
swiss chard, bunch 5 chinese cabbage 1
Iceberg, head 1 Corn, ears 5
frisice 1 Delicate squash 4
water cress 1 edamame 5
Herbs Eggplant, each 6
Basil, bunch 5 Fennel, bulb 4
Chives, bunch 1 green beans, pound 5
Garlic, head 13 hot peppers, variety 26
garlic scapes 3 Leeks, bunches 4
Mint 2 Onion, red and yellow 10
sage 1 patty pan squash 2
bok choy 2 Peppers, red and green 32
Cabbage, head 5 Pumpkins, each 6
Kohlrabi, 4 heads 1 Radishes, bunch 3
Okra, each 7 Rutabaga, each 2
Tomatillos, pint 1 Shallots, each 2
Tomatoes, pounds 32 spaghetti squash 1
Turnips, bunch 6 sugar snap peas, pound 2
yellow squash, each 26 Zucchini, each 15

I tried to cost compare our CSA ingredients against Whole Foods and Kroger’s to see economically how our decision to purchase a share stacked up.  My first hurdle was determining the actual grocery-store cost of comparable organic ingredients.  Our farmer is not “certified” organic, but uses no synthetic chemicals and uses sustainable farming practices.  My local Kroger only had 7 of the above ingredients listed as organic and fresh.  I chose not to calculate the costs of canned or frozen ingredients.  There were many ingredients that I could not find at my local Whole Foods or Kroger; rutabegas, garlic scapes, escarole, frisice, and watercress-to name a few.

My final totals for Whole Foods, less ingredients they did not have, came to $575.  The comparable Kroger bill was less, $387.  Remember, my Kroger total only includes 7 organic items.  Even Whole Foods did not have all the items I received from my CSA in an organic form.  Our CSA cost $625 for 25 weeks.  Since I am not able to completely compare item for item, I think that I can easily conclude that my CSA was comparably priced to shopping at Whole Foods.  While Kroger clearly won in the price category, their selection and quality were definitely the losers in this comparison.  The varieties and types of squash, tomatoes and peppers this summer were vast in my CSA but were fairly minimal at Kroger.  Even now, there are no rutabegas, beets, or spaghetti squash at my local store.  Lastly, the quality of produce in Kroger has continued to disappoint me after receiving fresh from the vine veggies all summer.  It’s amazing what a long truck ride can do to a tomato!

What’s the conclusion?  I am still a huge fan of my CSA.  My money supported a local farming family.  I literally looked my farmers in the face each week and thanked them for the hard work they put in to feed my family.  I enjoyed an afternoon at their farm, eating and enjoying the company of others who trusted my farmers to provide sustenance to their families.  While I recognize that CSAs cannot possibly be ideal for everyone, I challenge you to find a way to support local agriculture in any way you are able.

Let’s not forget all the fantastic food I prepared from my awesome ingredients!

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas, Chickpea and Turnip Soup, Vegetable Stock, Tomato Tarts, Roasted Red Peppers, Marinara Sauce, Pickled Squash, Veggies and Polenta, Tacos with Greens, Kale and Leftovers, and Kale and More Veggies.

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4 thoughts on “Reflecting on the CSA, 2010

  1. I should have mentioned on this post that I wasn’t always good at reporting the numbers of items. Often I would write “garlic” on my list but fail to report how many. I am pretty sure that my actual veggie take-home amounts were higher, making this all the more worthwhile!
    -Tracy

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