Is my CSA worth what I paid for it?


lujo238

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I joined a CSA this year and in the beginning I was pretty happy.  It got off to a slow start due to weather and they apologized for the small shares.  It was part of the risk when we signed up and it was all so fresh and new I was cool with it.  Now we have switched from Spring to Summer and I am starting to feel ripped off.  I bought a half share which was supposed to be $25 worth of vegies a week.  This week I got Swiss Chard 1 bunch = 2 servings, 2 good sized green onions, a small bag of yellow string beans, 1 yellow squash, 1 patty pan squash, 1 cucumber, 2 medium and 1 small potato, a bunch of purple basil and another small green herb I don't recognize.

 

Does anyone else do a CSA who can let me know if I am getting my moneys worth here.  I really don't think I am but I would feel better if others told me this was typical of locally grown, organic produce.  By my estimate this is about 11 servings of vegies.  I know we eat more than the average person but how do I make 11 servings of vegies last a week?

 

 

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FWIW, your CSA price might be a little high compared to Whole Foods (in Chicago) organic prices.  With that said, it is really difficult to say since I don't know the weights of your veggies (veg are usually priced by the lb in grocery stores).  Unfortunately, that amount of veg would only last me and my fiancé 2-3 days!  AND, if they are potatoes (not sweet potatoes) they are not allowed on the Whole30 (if you are currently doing one).

 

Keep in mind, though, you are supporting a local farmer and not a corporation! 

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Yes, that seems like not great value. I'd probably pay half that for the equivalent at my farmers market. The good news is you can shop around and find another csa you're happier with. Don't let this put you off csa's in general.

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My CSA share this past week was one big bunch of chard, one big bunch of kale, one big bunch of lettuce, one modest bunch of beet greens and 4 medium beets, one big bag of yellow beans, one large yellow squash, about 6 small onions - probably about 12 servings of veggies for me. I am working from memory, but I think this was it. It was enough to fill a large Whole Foods brown bag very full. I can't remember exactly what I pay for my CSA share, but this would have been $25 if I did not own a share at my farm. I think what I am getting from my CSA is comparable to what I would pay at Whole Foods. 

 

The first CSA I participated in charged $40 for less food than it takes to fill a bag and I quit them in disgust. 

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How timely... my husband and I are in the same boat.  First time joining a CSA.  1/2 share too.  This week we got: 1 bunch of parsley, 1 bag of snap peas (maybe 8 oz...), 8 oz of salad greens (mesclun mix) and 8 oz of spinach.  For $20.  We are pretty disappointed.  I'm glad that we are supporting a local farm but I'd almost rather just make a donation!  Our shares come on Tuesday and they don't tell us until Tuesday morning what will be in the share.  So that means that when we do our shopping on weekends we don't know what not to buy (though, it doesn't seem to matter since our shares certainly wouldn't put us over the top :) ).  We are in UPSNY so the season still isn't in full swing... I'm hoping it improves.  I'd like to do this again next year but am unsure how to "shop around" for a CSA - word of mouth I guess?

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I have had people ask if we do a CSA with our meat.  I thought about it a little bit and decided not to.  The main reason was because I couldn't guarantee consistency from week to week.  By consistency, I mean consistent size, weight...value basically.  And because of that, I didn't think it was fair.  I would rather just sell by the cut or by the 1/4.

 

So I'm wondering if your CSA is having a consistency problem?  Could it be that their yield is lower than what they thought it would be when they priced their fees?  Depending on where you are located, is this a slow time of year (I'm thinking not, but just throwing that out! :)

 

Certainly talk to the owner/operator and let them know your thoughts.  They won't know there is a problem unless the customers speak up.  While bad news isn't fun to hear, it is part of running a business.  They can't fix what they don't know is broken.  If they choose not to address the problem, then shop around for another CSA.

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Glad to have found this topic, as I too joined a CSA for the first time this summer and have also felt like the value isn't there... Here's what I got last week for $28:

 

12 oz snap peas

2 bok choy

3 heads lettuce (not iceberg... smaller heads, but not sure what type) and minutina

4 spring onions

small bunch oregano/sage

 

and this was one of the more 'bountiful' weeks. I thought maybe it might be more worthwhile in the fall. There are few CSA options where I live in NJ, so I think there's a supply/demand issue here. While I like to support local, I think budget-wise I'll have to go with conventional grocery store next year.

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I've belonged to a CSA for about 4 years now.

 

June is always a little slim, heavy on the greens and basil. The heartier veggies like tomatoes, peppers, corn, eggplant, potatoes, tomatillos and stuff that is better at filling your bags come in mid July or later, after the hot weather has worked its magic.

 

My share this week: One big bunch romaine lettuce, one big bunch Swiss chard, one kohlrabi, one cuke, one green squash, one large head broccoli, one head cauliflower, 6 garlic scapes and a marjoram plant.

 

The cost of my share averages out to $27 per week. That being said, I definitely don't belong because of the price. I belong because I want to support a local farmer who doesn't use pesticides. I belong because of the opportunities (10+) to visit the farm and come home with free eggs, herbs, flowers, etc or press my own apple cider, glean the fields at the end of the season, listen to the farmer's entertaining stories and insights about life as a farmer.

 

Of course, if you feel you aren't getting what was promised, you should try another CSA next year. Or take a year off and just visit farmers' markets and see if maybe that's more your style.

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Yeah see part of my problem is I know things are going well right now.  I follow my farm on Facebook and they are talking about a great season, a new farm to table restaurant client they picked up, and taking their wares to the farmers market.  My biggest problem I guess is they clearly stated in their sales pitch that we would get about $25 worth of food in our shares and that they put their CSA people first.  That is clearly not happening. I shop at my farmers market anyway and it is all local because they don't allow any food or crafts that are not locally grown or made.  My cost is about $25 a week and I could have taken that same $25 to the farmers market and easily come home with twice as much food.   And I would still be supporting local farmers.  Today I am picking up this weeks share and I will see how it looks.  If it is as small as last week I will suggest they take a second look at the value of the items they include and reconsider the share sizes.  I know they are not selling their squash at the farmers market for $2 per squash.  Especially when the next table over someone will have them for $3 a basket (usually about half a plastic grocery bag).  They actually take their stuff to a different market then the one I usually go to.  I need to go out there and see what they are getting for their stuff.  Oh and they charge extra for their eggs, $6 a dozen.

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Yours does seem to be higher priced than mine - I'm in Nashville, so the prices should be at least somewhat comparable. With mine, a dozen eggs are $5.50 (I can get similar pastured eggs at a local butcher for $5). I get meat and eggs in my share as well, but just a produce share is $27 and this is what mine had yesterday:

 

two bunches small beets

four ears of corn

two pattypan squash

two big zucchini squash

one big onion

2-3 small cucumbers (Kirbys?)

two small lemon cucumbers

two green peppers

two heirloom tomatoes

two small cabbages

one mystery melon (small - I think it might be some kind of cantaloupe)

a mess of green beans

 

I don't save money doing my CSA (and eating Paleo, I still need to buy some additional produce most of the time), but I usually don't feel ripped off either. This was a pretty big week in terms of volume, but still pretty representative for this time of year. If you feel like you're consistently not getting your money's worth and that they might be prioritizing retail rather than CSA customers, that could definitely be a legit complaint.

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Yeah see part of my problem is I know things are going well right now.  I follow my farm on Facebook and they are talking about a great season, a new farm to table restaurant client they picked up, and taking their wares to the farmers market.  My biggest problem I guess is they clearly stated in their sales pitch that we would get about $25 worth of food in our shares and that they put their CSA people first.  That is clearly not happening. I shop at my farmers market anyway and it is all local because they don't allow any food or crafts that are not locally grown or made.  My cost is about $25 a week and I could have taken that same $25 to the farmers market and easily come home with twice as much food.   And I would still be supporting local farmers.  Today I am picking up this weeks share and I will see how it looks.  If it is as small as last week I will suggest they take a second look at the value of the items they include and reconsider the share sizes.  I know they are not selling their squash at the farmers market for $2 per squash.  Especially when the next table over someone will have them for $3 a basket (usually about half a plastic grocery bag).  They actually take their stuff to a different market then the one I usually go to.  I need to go out there and see what they are getting for their stuff.  Oh and they charge extra for their eggs, $6 a dozen.

 

Ah. Yes, it is generally a good idea to seek out a CSA that ONLY gives out its vegetables to members, no farmers markets, etc. I'd be upset with that too.

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Yours does seem to be higher priced than mine - I'm in Nashville, so the prices should be at least somewhat comparable. With mine, a dozen eggs are $5.50 (I can get similar pastured eggs at a local butcher for $5). I get meat and eggs in my share as well, but just a produce share is $27 and this is what mine had yesterday:

 

two bunches small beets

four ears of corn

two pattypan squash

two big zucchini squash

one big onion

2-3 small cucumbers (Kirbys?)

two small lemon cucumbers

two green peppers

two heirloom tomatoes

two small cabbages

one mystery melon (small - I think it might be some kind of cantaloupe)

a mess of green beans

 

Wow - looking at all the food you got - so jealous! Today's pick up only included 8 oz of snap peas, 1 bunch lettuce, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch chard, 1 bunch chinese cabbage, and some sensopai. $28!! I, unfortunately, am locked in for the rest of the summer but I don't think I'll be joining again next year.

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I've been in a CSA for three years in Indianapolis. June is never very much food, and then July/Aug/Sept are LOTS of food. For us, we pay $550 for about 25 weeks for a full share (I have a half share). That averages to about $20/week for a full share, so yours is definitely more expensive than mine (but I also know mine is CHEAP relative to others in Indy even). We are told its an AVERAGE cost per week--we paid upfront. So there are weeks where we get WAY more than $20 worth. While I think overall yours is more expensive, if the average is $25/week, you may be in for several weeks of more than $25 worth, so it evens out...

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Wow jent103 that is an awesome amount of food.  I am jealous too.  My pickup was better yesterday I think.

 

1 pound of squash

1 pound of cucumbers

1 bunch swiss chard

1 bag of kale

1 small bunch carrots

2 onions

a bag of mixed beans, some green, yellow and black

and some basil

 

They actually weighed the squash and cucumbers this time.  I wonder if someone else questioned them on the amount. 

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It was a pretty big week - the week before was definitely smaller. The key for me is what it averages out to be. If you feel like you're consistently getting way less than you think you should, then I'd think about switching - but 2-3 down weeks in a season is pretty typical, I think. Mine averages out to be a good value - I don't save money, but I don't feel ripped off, and I like being forced out of ruts and supporting local farmers.

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