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2 JOIN A CSA

This action focuses on reducing fuels needed for food transportation by eating more local produce through a Community Supported Agriculture program.

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why?

Becoming a member of a Community Supported Agriculture program is one way to reduce food transportation and support a larger system of local agriculture. Why is eating locally important?

CSA farms provide a weekly delivery of sustainably grown produce to consumers during the growing season (approximately June to October). Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee. But CSA consumers don’t so much “buy” food from particular farms as become “members” of those farms. Members pay in advance for a “share” of what the farm produces in a growing season, then receive a portion of each week’s harvest delivered to a drop-off site near members. Among other things, the relationship provides farmers with much needed capital at the beginning of the growing season. Shareholders know who is growing their food (and how), and in some sense, have a farm to call their own. CSA operations provide more than just food; they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm.

CSA members directly influence their food supply and contribute to the local economy. With a CSA membership, people are not just buying produce: they’re making a commitment to support a farm, farmer, and farm family. Members assume a portion of the risk of farming: in good years there will be bounty, and in poor years smaller harvests.

CSA shares typically range from $450-$650 for a 17-18 week delivery period. According to this study done by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), the cost of a CSA box can range from being significantly less expensive than produce bought at a co-op or supermarket to significantly more. However, the food provided by CSA's is most likely the freshest and most nutritious organic produce that is available. Produce is delivered within 48 hours of being harvested at a local farm.

“On a CSA farm, members share the full costs of food production and local, sustainable agriculture. The CSA movement aims to educate consumers that supermarket prices do not reflect the real costs of our industrial agricultural system. These costs include packaging waste disposal, soil erosion and groundwater contamination, pollution caused by long-distance transport, and fair farm labor wages.” (CIAS)

Another consideration is the connection CSA programs offer to members to connect them to what food is specific to the region in which they live. It provides a unique opportunity to learn to cook food that is in season, and allow diets to change with the food available throughout the growing season. “Year-round availability of fresh produce is an important difference between CSA and the typical food shopping experience...long-distance produce incurs hidden costs. Commercial fruits and vegetables are bred, grown, harvested, and packaged for long distance shipment and shelf life, not taste and nutritional value.”


how to do this action:

The first step to becoming a member of a CSA is to find a program which fits with your needs.

  • LOCATION:
    Ideally the CSA you choose would be relatively close to your residence. CSA farms which provide food for metropolitan areas can be located 15-150 miles away. Decreasing this distance makes it easier for you to be more involved in the farm and share in some of the experiences and knowledge of the food they are providing. This also reduces transportation fuels necessary to bring the food to your kitchen.
  • PRICE:
    Prices for a full share typically range from $450-$650. Many farms offer smaller size shares such as ‘mini’ shares or ‘half’ shares for a cheaper price or offer an option to have boxes delivered every other week.
  • PICK UP SITE/DELIVERY DAY:
    The drop-off day and site location vary from farm to farm. Typically drop-off sites are located in towns which are on the way to a major metropolitan area. It is important to be aware of where and when you can pick up your CSA box each week so you know if it fits with your schedule. It also may be important to have a drop-off site within walking distance of your home, further decreasing the need for transportation going to and from the drop off site.
  • VARIETY OF PRODUCE:
    All CSA produce will vary based on what is being grown at the farm, the size of the farm and what is in season. The types of vegetables and other items in each weekly box will vary throughout the season. Some farms also give members the option of buy honey, fruit, flowers, eggs or meat based on what they produce. A common experience with first-time CSA members is to receive produce that you haven’t cooked with before. This provides a great opportunity to learn to cook new dishes with what is in season that week, however it can be challenging as well! Finding a good local cookbook (such as The Northern Heartland Kitchen by Beth Dooley for Minnesotans) can be an excellent resource for learning how to use all of your food each week.
  • FARM CONNECTION OPPORTUNITIES/MEMBER BENEFITS:
    Community building is an important part of the CSA approach. Most farms encourage you to become involved. Some farms plan seasonal festivals or special events such as free pick-your-own days.
Following are some links to CSA Directories:
MINNESOTA/MINNEAPOLIS CSAs
  • Minnesota Grown
    Minnesota Grown Directory has more than 70 CSA farms listed as well as farmer's markets, orchards, berry farms and other places to buy directly from the farmer.
  • Land Stewardship Project
    An excellent directory of CSA farms
  • Local Harvest
    Another good CSA/local farm resource sorted by product type.
UNITED STATES CSAs

what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How did having a CSA share change the percentage of local food purchased (by dollar amount) over the course of the project?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How did the experience of having a CSA share affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (F2_BASELINE) to keep a log of all grocery purchases by dollar amount for one week.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (F2_BASELINE) as it relates to your current dietary and food consumption habits:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (F2_QUANTITATIVE) to keep a log of food purchases, designating the percentage of each purchase as ‘local’ or ‘non-local’. Enter the price of your CSA box (which will be averaged out to the number of weeks you received food).

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria, every IMPLEMENTATION day on the spreadsheet (F2_QUALITATIVE) Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. How did your overall satisfaction, health and happiness change with changing food sourcing? Keep a narrative daily log of what was cooked, the struggles and benefits of being a CSA member, the quality of foods compared to what would have been purchased elsewhere, etc...How did having a CSA share change what is typically eaten in your household?


resources

Video on Local Minnesota CSA farms
Downloadable publication which reports on the history of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the US
ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

F2_Join a CSA Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

F2_BASELINE
F2_QUANTITATIVE
F2_QUALITATIVE