If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a number of choices for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and are wondering how to go about choosing the right one for you, this post is for you.
I did a lot of research before choosing the CSA that my family and I currently belong to. It turns out, there were many options for CSA’s, but not a lot of them were not a good fit for our family. Here are some things that I have learned on my search for the perfect CSA. I will say that I title this post “How to Find the Right CSA for Your Family” for a reason. I purposefully didn’t use the word ‘perfect’ because there are so many different variations of CSA’s that it would be very difficult to find a PERFECT one. But here is a good method for finding the CSA that is right for you and your family:
First, ask yourself what you want and expect out of a CSA. If this is your first time joining one, you may not know yet exactly what you want, but you may have some expectations. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you specifically looking for an organic CSA?
- Are you joining a CSA to add variety into your diet or are you looking for a larger quantity?
- Do you want a local farm CSA (one that you would pick up at the farm) or are you okay with just being close to a drop off/pickup location?
Once I answered these questions for myself, I was able to narrow down my choices. Your next step is to do just that, narrow down your choices. We were looking for an organic CSA (or an all natural approach even if it wasn’t certified organic). I knew that I wanted to travel to the farm each week to pick up my CSA share because I wanted my kids to see where their food was grown and potentially be a part of the harvesting process at some point. I also wanted to add variety to my family’s diet while gaining some extra produce for freezing and preserving at the same time.
Off we went and joined our first CSA. It was lovely. A CSA run by a local family. The kids and I went each week and they played with the animals and fed the goats while I picked up our share and chatted with the farmers. It was wonderful! But, it was a summer-only CSA.
There were a lot of things that I loved about this CSA; it was run by a WONDERFUL family, the farm was interactive – the farmer even gave my kids a lesson on harvesting vegetables during our homemade “science camp”, and when the farm did well, our shares were HUGE!
But, there were some things that I found myself craving more of. I was hoping to continue on for a longer season than the 10 weeks that this CSA offered and I wanted more of a community in the sense that I wanted to meet and interact with the other members.
After interviewing if you will, or trying out a CSA for a season, decide if you are happy with your choice. After that season closed, I decided to start searching again, this time for a winter CSA. That’s when I found our current CSA. It raised and answered many more questions that I didn’t even know I had.
- Do you want extras? Generally a CSA will contain produce (veggies or fruits). Are you happy with that or do you want more options such as meat, bread, eggs, cheese, etc.?
- Do you want to build relationships? Are you okay with going and picking up your share and going home or do you want to talk to people each time, get to know other members and the farmers?
- What is the philosophy of the farm? Do they follow the you-own-a-share-of-our-farm philosophy (meaning that if there are 100 members of the CSA then 1/100 of what the farm produces is yours) or do they follow the preset-amount philosophy meaning that what you will get in your share box each week is predetermined?
When I found our current CSA, some of the draws for me were that they seemed as though they were interested in that interaction between members just as I am. They were hosting Wine and Cheese events, and even Farm to Table dinners. They also shared my love for the idea of local sustainability and offered shares from other local farms such as a mushroom share, bread share, cheese share, and meat share, with the hope of adding as many as possible as other farmers showed interest.
Of course, there are always logistical questions to ask a farm as well once you have narrowed it down. Here are a few:
- Ask for a list of produce that the farm will grow. Are you happy with the variety? Is it fruits and vegetables?
- How big is a typical share? Now, remember that this will vary throughout the year. Some weeks will be heavier than others, but it will all even out.
- Are there some veggies that are offered pick-your-own if you pick up at the farm?
- How much does it cost? Do you pay by season, or quarterly, or weekly? *To give you an idea of ours, we live in a distant suburb of Philadelphia and pay $22 a week for 7-8 different varieties of vegetables/fruits in our share each week.
- What other goods are a part of your CSA? Flowers, meat, eggs, cheese, honey, etc.
Write down your questions and ask the farm when you go to check it out. Ask around at local markets. They may have some really great, unheard of recommendations off the beaten path (those are the best kinds sometimes!). It is very difficult to find a farm that will fit ALL of your criteria. You may have to prioritize or you may have to try it out for a season. The worst case scenario is that you will end up with a bunch of delicious produce.
*If you are looking for more information on CSA shares and what they are all about, check out my accounts of our winter CSA. Also, Local Harvest is a really great resource that gives a more in depth description of a CSA. Bonus: you can find a local farm on this website as well! describes a CSA perfectly.
Today I linked up over at Crafty Garden Mama’s Tuesday Greens! Check it out for some other great eco-friendly posting:)