What factors should I consider when comparing CSA farms?
Choosing a CSA farm is a big decision. Not only is it a big financial commitment but it effects what kind of food your family is going to consume during our local growing season. To help you decide, please consider these factors.
First you should decide if you want USDA Certified Organic produce for your family. Be skeptical of those farms that promise ‘organic practices’ but are not USDA certified.
Read the information in the tab titled “How We Grow” to get a better understanding of how a USDA Certified Organic farm produces your food.
Decide if you want to actually buy from a REAL FARMER (like Summer Wind Farms and many others) or from an "aggregator" a company, or even, sadly, a farm that really buys most of their produce from other farmers and sends it to you. Do you really need to pay someone to do your shopping for you?
Several big corporations and even some farms offer "home delivery" of produce. You must decide if the added cost, potential lack of freshness (from sitting in the summer heat on your porch till you get home from work!) and the environmental impacts of excessive packaging are worth the "convenience."
Check to see if the farm offers a share size that’s right for your family. Do all family members eat vegetables? To get the best value choose a size that’s right for your needs. There are no standard sizes of CSA share boxes, email or visit the farmer and ask to see lists of share contents from the previous season to make sure of what you will be getting.
When comparing prices be sure to compare “apples to apples” so to speak. Do not compare a non-certified or non-organic farm’s share price to an organic one. They have very different costs of production which will be reflected in the share prices.
Also, do not focus just on the cost of a farm’s share. You should take note of the number of weeks that shares are provided for. A farm may offer a share that is $50 per season lower than another farm but if it is for fewer weeks or contains less produce, then it may actually be more expensive per week.
Compare how each farm communicates with its members. Does the farm have a web site and social media presence? Do they email or distribute information about the farm, your weekly share, cooking tips, recipes, preserving or other important information?
Do you want to travel to the farm? Many CSA’s offer market style pickups at their farm and ‘box shares’ for delivery, as Summer Wind Farms does. Which do you prefer and which is most convenient for you?Be sure to read the question and answer section of our vegetable CSA web page and the tab "Is a CSA right for my family" to get more insight into how CSA's work, especially if this is your first season.
Ultimately your decision will be based on a combination of these factors. Whichever CSA you choose, please choose a real farm and thank you for helping to support local farmers!