About a month ago I was poking around on the web, checking out some of my favorite blogs when I came across an article on CSAs over on Bankergirl. Being an accountant and interested in numbers and finances I read several personal finance blogs regularly including Bankergirl and The Simple Dollar.
Anyway Heidi at Bankergirl had posted a nice article on CSAs, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You can read her post here. So what is a CSA? After reading her post I think of it as an investment in a local farm and in return for your investment you get a “dividend” in the form of a share of the farm’s harvest. Basically you pay a fee at the beginning of the season and then throughout the season you get regular portions of the farm’s harvest.
I have always been an environmentally-conscious person but recently I have been more aware of buying local. Buying local supports the local farmer and is better on the environment because the food doesn’t have to travel as far to get to you thus putting less pollution in the air. A lot of small local farmers also use sustainable farming practices.
After reading Heidi’s post I decided to investigate CSAs in my area. You can do this on Local Harvest. I live in Kansas and as you can imagine there are a lot of farms in my area. Unfortunately all the CSAs in Kansas were already sold out for 2008! I kept investigating and luckily found one just across the state line in Missouri that was starting a new CSA program for 2008. The farm is called NV Ranch and what really drew me to them was their very nice website. Their website explains all about their farming practices which I enjoyed learning about.
All CSA programs are different. NV Ranch offers a produce program, an egg program and a meat program. There are different levels of investment or membership depending on the size of your family or how much food you want. The produce shares are sold for 1, 2 or 4 people. The meat shares are sold for 2 or 4 people and the egg shares are sold depending on how many eggs you want – a dozen every week, every other week or every four weeks.
The program begins in mid-May and runs through the end of October. CSA members pick up their shares weekly at a designated pick up location. The produce items vary each week depending on the season. The website lists what you can expect to receive during spring, summer and fall.
To me it sounded like a great deal. An individual produce share is only $150 for the entire season and a partial share (approximately 2 people) is only $280. The egg program is $27 for a full share (a dozen eggs every two weeks). I wasn’t really interested in the meat program since I don’t eat a lot of meat.
Here’s the catch. A CSA member also bears the risks of investing in the local farm as well as the rewards. So if a tornado hits the farm and everything is destroyed you do not get a refund. Or if there’s a drought this summer or a flood or anything there are no refunds.
I debated for several days about whether to join or not. I really wanted to support the local farmer and have farm fresh produce every week. But I was concerned about being able to use it all and also about getting something in my share that I don’t like (beets for example…). I was also worried about being able to pick up my share every single week from May all the way to October. It’s a little bit out of my way to go pick it up since I have to drive over to Missouri.
In the end I decided to just go for it. It’s important to me to support local farmers. Receiving different vegetables than I normally eat will just force me to try new things. I can always give some things away to family or friends if I don’t think I will use them. Hopefully I’ll eat healthier all summer as well since I’ll have a regular supply of fresh produce. I also decided that it was too good of a deal to pass up. If I end up not using the items as much as I think then I won’t sign up next year.
I am SO glad I decided to sign up because I checked their website today and ALL shares are sold out for 2008 for ALL programs. Good thing I got my deposit in!
I’m excited for May and the first share pick-up. I’m going to try to post weekly about what’s in my share and how I like the program as the weeks progress.