For part two of my Summer CSA Series, let’s chat about how to find the perfect farm for your needs! This was my first experience with a CSA and I didn’t have any close friends who had ever done one, so I didn’t exactly have any recommendations for where to start looking. Fortunately, I was given a great jumpstart because Minnesota has two websites where you can search for CSA’s based on a variety of criteria: Land Stewardship Project and Minnesota Grown.
The first concern for me in choosing a farm was price, so let’s start there! Yes, I wanted to eat organic this summer and yes, I wanted to avoid going to the grocery store every week for fresh produce, but I still wanted to be sure I was getting a reasonable deal. First of all, we had decided to split our share with some good friends so any price I found would be halved. Side note: If you’re a couple, a half share is plenty, even if you’re pretty hearty veggie eaters! After looking at some potential farms, I was finding a price range of anywhere from $600-800 for the entire summer. “$600 for vegetables???!!” you might say. Well yes, but when you divide it in half for your share, it comes down to $300. Then, divide the $300 by how many weeks your CSA is delivering (for us, it’s 20) and already you’re down to $15 per week. Plus, if you now only have to go to the grocery store every other week instead of every week, you’re cutting out gas costs plus any impulse buys that naturally happen every time I set foot in a grocery store.
When you’re comparing prices between CSA’s, I’d recommend making a little chart to keep notes in since some farms only have a 15 week season and some deliver for 20 weeks. For example, I was interested in another farm that charged $550 for the summer but they only delivered 15 weeks, so the weekly cost came out to be much higher. Also, if you don’t want a full share, I would recommend finding someone to split it for you, because it will often be cheaper to buy a full share than a half. Plus, then you can pawn the cauliflower off on your CSA buddy when you don’t want it!
My 2nd criteria was that our produce be organic. I had 5 CSA’s on my list that all had comparable prices, but then was able to whittle it down to 4 when adding in the organic criteria. There are some farms that are certified organic and some that state they are organic, but have not yet been approved. I opted to go with those that were certified.
The 3rd thing I was looking for in a CSA farm was that it be quick and easy to collect my produce! I’m spoiled rotten right now because we have 10+ grocery stores in a 2 mile radius of our place, so when it comes to convenience for my food, I’m getting a bit lazy. Out of the 4 remaining CSA’s, there were only 2 that dropped off within 2 miles of my house, so that knocked off a few more off my list right there.
My final deciding factors for the CSA were the resources that were provided by the farm, how long the company had been around, and the general satisfaction of their customers. After browsing social media accounts, reviews, and the farms’ websites, I quickly knew which CSA I was going to be choosing. Our CSA, Driftless Organics, based out of Soldier’s Grove, Wisconsin, provides an awesome weekly newsletter with the produce explaining what’s in the box, how to use it, how to store it, and even throws in some jokes and fun recipes! They also have great communication, which I’m a huge fan of. Every Monday I receive an email telling me what’s going to be in my box on Thursday, so I can plan for the week and get super excited about all the yummies!
So, there you have it. If you’re thinking about jumping on the CSA train, these criteria will hopefully help you choose the best farm for your needs.