Tuesday, March 9, 2010

CSA vs Co-op

Since I learned of their existence last summer, I have been pondering CSAs and Co-ops.  The whole concept intrigues me.  As some of you may remember my balcony garden ( or the back 40 asCurt refers to it)  produced a lot of cucumbers, eggplants , herbs and especially peppers and tomatoes. (There is a place in central jersey on the PA border that has about 500 types of peppers and 150 tomatoes - I've seen them advertised in chile magazine and was considering ordering from them when I realized they are about an hour or so away and have weekend hours in June!  field trip!  but that is another post) But I still would go to the mobile farmers market every week to pick up stuff.  And sometimes I would see veggies I never tried before and buy them, and was surprised to learn things like kolrabi is really good.

Sometimes the market is cheaper than the store, sometimes it's more. It's always fresher.  And I figure if you want good, fresh veggie choices you need to support local growers.  And since most of the veggies in the supermarket are grown on corporate farms, it is good to support local, family owned farms. Selfishly, local growers are more likely to grow more diverse choices.  Then there is all the environnmental stuff - less transport, a lot of them are organic etc.  And after all Jersey is the Garden State - despite what you see driving up the turnpike.

So this has been percolating in my brain all winter and something (not sure what) prompted it to come to the forefront.   I spent a lot of time over the weekend looking into it ( great site if you want to check it out for yourself LocalHarvest ) and there is sooo much to take into consideration.  Size of farm, and variety of produce grown.  Optional cheese/milk/poultry.  Pickup point. There is a farm about 20 miles from us, but the only pickup point is 45 miles away in opposite direction.  Cost.  The CSAs ( just realized I never told you what that means - Community Supported Agriculture) cost anywhere from 250 - 950 for the season ( most around here are June to November) .  Some you get stuff every week some every other week, and the farms with more varieties generally run higher - also the size of average package varies,  from 6lbs avg to a bushel.  Some of them you are required to work a certain number of hours per month or for the season.

The co-ops run year round.  They buy from a variety of growers, but try to go with produce as local as possible.  So in January the tomatoes may come from Florida, but in July they'll be from NJ, or PA.  They also vary by how often, how big a delivery and if you have to work hours etc.

One drawback in the CSAs is it really is like buying a share of the farm.  A certain percentage goes to the CSA delivery.  SO if the weather is horrible, ot there is a late spring, your package will reflect that.  On the other hand if it is a bumper crop year, it would reflect that as well.

I kind of wish I knew about these years ago.  When Angie was little.  I mean she'll probably be home this summer, although I'm not sure, but in September she'll definitely be in Philly.  So as a lot of stuff gets harvested in Sept, Oct and early Nov, there will only be myself and Curt to eat it. ( Not Angie and her UN possie.)  So I don't want to go into too large a commitment.

Right now, I'm leaning toward a co-op, because the CSA I was considering doesn't sell half shares.  The co-op does.  And I figure, let me see how practical or how big a pain in the ass it is to have to stop and pick up every other week.  ANd if I can work with a "random" bag of produce picked by someone else.  Also if it is like feast or famine with an every 2 week schedule, or if I'm hitting the farmers market on the off weeks.  If I do, is it a good or bad thing?  Maybe its nice to have a bag and then on the in between weeks go buy just what I want.  Or will I be annoyed?  I can be very tempermental so it's hard even for me to guess.  Both options apparently offer recipe ideas for some of the lesser known produce, so it would be a nice way to try the things I would normally walk past.  Also, if I decide I like it, and I want every week, I can go with a CSA next year that delivers every week.  Or I can go with 2 different places that do every other week, if they alternate weeks.

There are a lot of options.  I really want to figure this out before Easter.  Really I want to figure this out this week.  I will let you know what I decide, but in the meantime if anyone has experience with them or a viewpoint I haven't considered let me know!

You Are Mittens

You seek comfort in your life. You want to feel as warm and cozy as possible.

You are naturally nurturing and caring. And you always make sure to take care of yourself!

Winter is your time to hibernate. You love to curl up on a cold night, even if everyone else is going out.

And when you do venture out of the house, you bundle up. You want to feel as warm as possible.



  1. I didn't know about much of this but if it's local I would go for the co-op myself. I like that idea. Keep us posted. And you need to stop by SouthLakes Mom's Sensational Haiku Wednesday. YOU are going to love it :)

  2. A friend of mine and her husband do something like this with a half share and she loves it. They do it with some couples through their church... she's constantly telling us at stitch group about all the goodies she's gotten. There's no way to predict what you'll get, which would be a problem with those of us who are... vegetable averse... but they're doing great. It's just the two of them -- I think she freezes the excess if there is any.

    Hope you enjoy it if you try it!

  3. I don't think we have anything like this in my area, but I think I will look around to see if we do. I think they have talked about this on PBS and foodnetwork. They sound great and fresh produce! You could still have your garden for off weeks and freeze excess, like jean suggests. Let us know what you decided.


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