Our CSA - Part II

As I wrote in an earlier post, two GRACE coworkers and I are splitting a CSA* share from the 14th Street Y CSA.  Interested in seeing what we've been getting?  Check out the slideshow above for photos of the last six shares.

Inside Scoop: The Cost of CSAs

Among the most common questions we're asked about CSAs are those regarding cost.  How much do you have to shell out?  Is it a good deal?  What’s the price per pound of produce?!  (The answers: It depends on the CSA.  Yes!  It varies by season.)

CSA share prices are typically fixed (i.e., you usually pay a flat fee for the entire season rather than a flexible weekly price based on the amount of vegetables in your share), and can vary significantly by region, by farm and according to share composition (i.e., expect to pay less for a small, once-every-other-week vegetable share than a weekly everything-but-the-kitchen-sink share that includes veggies, fruit, eggs, meat, milk, flowers, etc.).  Some CSAs also require members to commit to a few hours of volunteer work on the farm or at the distribution location.

Though share prices can be substantial (you are paying for an entire season of food, after all), many CSAs mitigate the wallet shock by offering installment options.  In the interest of ensuring affordability, some also offer sliding-scale pricing based on income and some accept EBT payments.

Our share at the 14th Street Y cost $610, which was payable in one lump sum at the beginning of the season, or in three installments (the Y also offers discounted shares to low-income members).  Keep in mind that this share price is likely to be on the expensive side since we're in New York City, where prices for everything are high.

As a result of the fixed share cost, the price per pound of produce ultimately depends on the many factors that affect agricultural production – if conditions are good, you might walk away with more food than you can carry – and a low cost per veggie.  But if conditions are unfavorable (think, drought, heavy rain, late frost, etc.), your share might be a little lighter – and therefore pricier.

In the end, CSA shares tend to cost less than if you bought the same items at a farmers' market or in the organic section of your grocery store (check out a comparative cost analysis conducted by Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy Farm Share CSA in 2006).  But really, the main benefit of joining a CSA is being able to directly support sustainable agriculture.  And that’s always a great deal.

Are you a CSA member with photos and/or recipes to share? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected] with the subject line “CSA.”

*Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between communities and farmers that enables food eaters to help support food producers.  Basically, CSA members purchase a CSA share from a farm at the beginning of the season, and in return receive regular installments of produce (and in some cases, meat, eggs and/or dairy) for the duration of the season.  It’s kind of like buying stock – but with edible dividends.  Learn more about CSAs at Sustainable Table.