A CSA, or community-supported agriculture, allows city dwellers to buy small "shares" of a farm—kind of like a subscription to vegetables. Members pay a share of the costs of production up front, then get regular boxes of produce throughout the year.
Is it a good deal? "It depends on the particular CSA and on your lifestyle," says CathleenH. "My experience with a Chicago-area CSA has been fantastic," she says. "They deliver huge boxes of high-quality vegetables. The price per pound is a fraction of what I'd pay at the grocery store or farmer's market. The only trick is keeping up with the supply. I have to be disciplined about cooking vegetables 5-6 nights a week in order to avoid waste." However, she didn't like her experience with a New York CSA. "Each week, I got a small grocery bag filled with odds and ends—a few carrots, a turnip, a tiny bundle of spinach. I generally couldn't even make a side dish out of any one item because of the small quantities."
"I love love love my CSA," says tcamp. "I am happy with the size and variety of the food shares but more importantly, I love my farmer and I'm happy that I can support him and his family so that they can continue the important work of growing delicious, organic, food so close to the DC area."
"A few things to consider before joining, however," says tcamp. "Who are you buying from, exactly? Can you talk to the farmer, visit the farm? What do they typically grow and are those things you eat or will try? Do you have a backup plan for vacation weeks or when you can't use up your share?"
"My CSA is awesome," says twyst. "You have a choice every week of paying $30 for a half bushel of random veggies or you can volunteer for 4 hours and receive a free share for the week. The produce we receive is far better than anything we can get in the store."