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CSA subscriptions?

A few years ago, when I started reading up on the Slow Food Movement and Eating Locally, etc, I bookmarked a local farm that does a CSA subscription. I keep looking at it every few months, thinking it would be fun to do but trying to see how it balances out financially. Keep in mind that my garden spits out more zucchini, yellow squash, and lettuce than I can keep up with.

I shop at Henry's (the chain - Sunflower Market - that was bought by Whole Foods) and even when they don't have sales I can load up on produce and bulk grain items for about $10/week. We went to the Farmer's Market one Saturday and, as an experiment, I started with a $20 bill to see how far it would go. My $20 (plus an extra $1 so I could buy a HUGE head of cauliflower) gave us veggies and a dozen fresh eggs. The veggies lasted a little over a week (tomatoes, cauliflower, strawberries, free squash thrown in, turnips, and a bag of spinach). Granted, the cauliflower was so huge it was a side dish for a lot of meals AND a good portion of my work lunches. I know it's better supporting local farmers than my grocery chain, but with the exception of the tomatoes everything else wasn't THAT much better than what I get at Henry's.

Anyway, the CSA would end up being about $20/week (although they offer every-other-week plans) for a small share. Does anyone take part in a CSA plan? Do you find it's just as cheap as shopping for groceries? Or, do you think the extra cost is worth it? Do you get it delivered to you or do you go pick it up... and is that a little inconvenient?

I just feel like this would be more of a "doing good" effort than "saving money" thing. Help me figure this out!

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  1. We've been part of a CSA for a little over a year now. I love it! I find that even if you're right about being able to stock up on veggies and bulk grains for ten dollars a week at Henry's, which I find a little hard to believe, that you'll still likely save money with the CSA since you won't be at the grocery store where you'll be tempted to pick up the sorts of things that might otherwise drive your grocery bill up.

    In terms of CSA vs. farmers market, our CSA is defintely a better deal than our local farmers market. And, more importantly I like that we've committed to a farm and to buying local organic produce. Left to my own devices I would likely go to the farmers market some weeks but not others. We pick up our box a few blocks from our house and it works out fine.

    Being part of a CSA also keeps you very tied to the seasons which can be a good thing or not depending on how you feel about winter veggies, but even some place like Henry's is generally stocking things from all over the place to give us the illusion that we can have anything we want any time.

    Even if in the end it is a "doing good" thing rather than a "saving money" thing, Is that really a problem if you feel you can comfortably fit it into your budget? Whether its the living and working conditions of farm laborers, pesticides, or the 1/5 of our national oil budget spent on transporting food and cooling food so that we can have tomatoes in Februrary there are plenty of reasons to be a do-gooder on this one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: China

      Well, there's only 2 of us to feed and I only pick up about 1/2 to 1 pound of something bulk (oats, flour, beans, rice, barley, etc) once in a while. It's always surprising to me, as I have my credit card ready for the bill and then usually end up handing over cash because it's under $10. Now, if I pick up anything canned or boxed, or meat or seafood, then the cost goes up, but those aren't items covered in a CSA anyway.

    2. I second China on the pros of being part of a CSA. It's great to know exactly where your food is coming from, and also to have a relationship with those growing the food. Also, think of the great spinach scare of last year. Another plus, which could be considered a minus, is that you become exposed to a lot more types of vegetables than you would if you shopped in a grocery store. Also, in major harvest season, you generally get far more than you need, and can freeze to use in the winter months. Be warned though, someone once told me, and I am finding it to be true, that it takes a few years before you really learn how to use up or put up all of the veggies before they go bad. Supermarket veggies seem to be bred to keep for a really long time, while small farm veggies don't last more than a week at best - even cauliflower.

      But really, I find it to be a win-win. I get great, fresh, local veggies and I support a neighbor in the process. I also eat a whole lot better than I would without it. With all those pre-paid veggies in the fridge - I have to eat them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hilltowner

        Ah yes - being "forced" to eat my veggies is the biggest perk of joining a csa! It is wonderful.

        The only down side for me has been the pickup time/location hassle. If it is not easy for you to get to the distribution site during the pickup hours, it can really be stressful. I think this year I will be joining a csa that offers coupons to their farm stand and farmers market instead of a set weekly pickup, as then I can choose exactly what I want, when I want it. It's more flexible and will allow me to supplement what I grow myself while still supporting the local farm. Perfect!

        As for cost, I can't buy a week's worth of high quality, organic or IPM produce for less than the cost of the csa. Especially when you consider the offerings that tend to be more expensive - peas, tomatoes, melons, berries, some herbs, etc - there is no way I can beat the csa price at the store.

      2. We're headed into our fourth year with our CSA, so I guess we like it enough to keep returning. It's been great in that the quality of produce has been wonderful, it's forced me to try some new things, and it's helped me really think about the trials of farming. The tough part has been zuchini...we just get a little sick of it during bumper crop time.

        We eat a LOT of veggies, and I still go to our farmers' market. It's on Saturday, our produce pick-up is Wednesday. That keeps us pretty well-fed. Our price for the CSA comes to about 14.80 per week. We think it's a good deal money wise (compared to grocery store produce we would buy). I do wish we lived in an area with a longer growing season, though.

        We've had friends who have dropped out after one year. One couple was not satisfied with the variety; another couple missed the Farmers' Market.

        1 Reply
        1. re: debbiel

          I get sick of the zucchini that comes out of my own garden... what would I do with another shipment?? I guess, if anything, I'll get a chance to learn how to freeze and can veggies for later.

        2. Sharing in the same risks as the farmer as well as the bounty helps connect my family to the food we eat. Our CSA (five year members) allows us to pick certain crops which has been very helpful. The children love to eat sugar snap peas, green beans and raspberries straight off the vine. In New York where we live the season is from Spring to late fall and I would like my children to understand that in a real and meaningful way - not to take for granted the foods we eat.
          Visiting the farm every week is a beautiful sensory experience, and a community event . We have also eaten many vegetables I would not ordinarily buy. We get flowers too, see the barn swallows feeding their young, watched the calves turn from gangly new borns to hulking cows, seen new born chicks, watched the sheep get shorn... It is about far more than whether I get a bargain bag of vegetables

          2 Replies
          1. re: serveitforth

            I know some farms allow their members to visit or even help out a couple of days a month to reduce their cost. Unfortunately, the farm near me isn't set up for that (or even visits). I think it would be very interesting to get to visit the actual vegetable crops that I'll be getting later.

            1. re: leanneabe

              That is too bad. We are very lucky here - we have six CSA's in the immediate area and more in a 20 mile radius. Some here allow you to pay less money upfront in exchange for farm work, weeding, distribution etc.

          2. I can't use all the food I'd end up with as a CSA subscriber. However, our local CSA runs a stand at our weekly growers' market where they sell whatever is left over or in great abundance that week, so I can support them without committing to a membership.

            1. We did a CSA a while ago. I love the concept but it didn't work as well in practice for us. We'd get an odd assortment of things, like two apples, one pear, and there must have been a run on swiss chard because we'd get a huge bunch every week. I ended up having to go to the farmers market anyway to get what we wanted so we stopped it. I am thinking of starting one up again. I think a lot of it depends on how much access you have to local produce. In California, where we did the CSA, it was easy to get local produce. Where I am now, it's harder which is why I'd consider it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chowser

                This has been my experience. We've subscribed before, and found they wouldn't let us choose our items after the first year. So, we HAD to get bags of presorted veggies in which they would select one of each variety of a vegetable, or items that varied widely in size. When I'd cook asparagus, for example, I'd have to cook some spears a minute and others as much as five. It was inconvenient. When I brought up the subject, or asked to trade choices, I was treated like an annoying child. I recognize that some of this is in the nature of the beast, but I didn't expect them to treat me so badly when I supported them financially. I just got fed up with these issues, despite the wonderful quality and freshness. I also was a bit irked by the incredible abundance of turnips. I actually like turnips, especially when young, but when forced to buy huge bunches week after week, I'm not so enthusiastic.

                That said, if a CSA is better managed where you live, and you can afford it, I say go for it. It can be really nice to know the people who grow your food, considering they are customer service oriented folks.

              2. Apologies in advance, this is long: Since it seems like the tide is turning against CSAs in this discussion thread, I will weigh in as someone who has subscribed for about 6 years now and tried 3 different CSAs. I agree with China's points, above. My CSA is on the pricey side: $25 a week. We get a big "family share" box for my family of 4 (two of whom are 4 and 6 years old). A few comments:

                (1) I get amazingly fresh veggies, that are absolutely gorgeous, top-notch in quality, and usually harvested about 48 hours or less before I get them. Note: not every CSA can promise that. I once subscribed to one that was far less professional, and had very inconsistent produce. But two of the farms I've subscribed with have provided consistently amazing veggies and fruit. Yes, I can get veggies of that quality at the farmer's market, but I get lazy and don't make it to the farmer's market each week. When I do go, it's for extra fruit.

                (2) There is definitely an "Iron Chef" element to it, i.e. "This week's secret ingredient: KOHLRABI!" I find this a fun challenge, usually. Epicurious is my friend. Sometimes, especially when I'm really busy with work, it's easier to go with the old standbys than trying to figure out what to do with parsnips or rutabagas or fennel (I'm Taiwanese and had never eaten those things before). But the CSA has really expanded my culinary horizons. A lot of the stuff I get, I would never buy at the farmer's market, but now I like it. This approach isn't for everyone, though.

                (3) I often get stuff that I don't like that much (like dandelion greens), or that I *thought* I didn't like, but have never had in its ideal state (like fresh beets), or that I am tired of (like turnips). The little bags of low-priority veggies do start collecting at the bottom of the fridge. One year I was a member of a CSA that sent out HUMONGOUS bunches of basil every week. I love basil, but I had a year's worth of pesto in my freezer. There are quirks like that.

                (4) It really does get us (including my kids) to eat more veggies, and less processed/prepared food. First, because we're under pressure to finish a box before the next box comes, and second, because we rarely go to the supermarket during CSA season - I usually supplement the CSA veggies with occasional trips to the Asian market for fish and meat, or to Costco for various dry goods and staples. I rarely go to the "regular" supermarket when I'm CSAing. I don't know whether it actually *saves* us money, but I do save the time and gas that's required to go shopping for produce (the CSA pickup site is walking distance from my house). This is actually the main reason I switched from my last farm to the current one, even though the new one is more expensive.

                (5) In response to the "too much zucchini from my own garden" comment, I also grow my own veggies, but I try not to grow the ones I know I'll get too much of from the CSA. So I didn't plant zukes, knowing that I'd have plenty. On the other hand, never too many tomatoes. (Especially when the basil is coming by the bushel!)

                (6) I'm in the SF Bay Area, so yes, of course, there's a "do-gooder" component to this. And I have gone down and gotten to know the farmers, etc., which is fun and feels great. But the charitable ("help the small farmer") aspects aren't enough to make me do it. It's really the quality and variety of the produce for a price that I consider more than fair that has kept me subscribing for many years. It's a little painful to write out a check for $700+ to prepay for the whole season (and if you go on vacation you still have to pay), but I do think I get more for my buck than if I took that $700+ to Whole Foods.

                My CSA starts again in 2 weeks, and I can't wait. During the "down season" (3 months) I fall into a lazy cycle of 4 or 5 different types of veggies from Costco and Trader Joe's.

                1. I appreciate all the comments and various points of view. I really appreciate comments from people who weren't happy with their CSA, as they do address some of my concerns with getting a CSA. But I'm happy to hear that a lot of people are happy with their subscriptions. I wish the CSA offered here had a pick up site close to home or allowed farm visits.

                  Our CSA offers a trial period, so I think I will consider doing that. Now it's just a matter of deciding if I want to sign up now or wait until our vacation in May is done. Thanks for everyone's thoughts!

                  1. I am so sold on the CSA concept....I need assistance choosing the right one and the price to pay. I am located in Westchester/Rockland County New York are (lower Hudson Valley), so am looking for a CSA that can deliver or I can pick up on Saturdays located in Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster or Orange Counties? . The cool part is that I cook for two families in my nabe and can easily absorb the veggies as well as am extremely creative in trying new veggies.

                    Any recommendations are appreciated.....


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: engarcon

                      Try www.localharvest.com You can search CSA's in you area by zip code. In Ulster County NY I reccomend Four Winds Farm, Brook Farm, Phillies Bridge Farm Project, Taliaferro Farm, The Huguenot St Farm.

                    2. Leanneabe, I think I recognize you from the San Diego boards. From what you are describing, I suspect that you are looking at Be Wise Ranch, which is the CSA that I belong to. It's just my SO and myself, so we do a large share every other week, and here is my take:
                      1) The freshness of the produce is AMAZING. I've literally had a head of red lettuce in my fridge for a month before it turns. A MONTH. Turnips and beets last longer than I can stand to have them in there.
                      2) I have found that produce is perplexingly expensive in the SD area, considering all of the local farms and farmers. Even if I don't use all of my produce every week, I still win - especially compared to the prices for organic veggies!!
                      3) Okay, this is my personal issue, but I grew up on "marsh" strawberries in the midwest ... and when I moved to CA and all of the strawberries were HUGE and watery, I was so disappointed! Until, that is, I joined a CSA and now I'm so happy with the small juicy sweet berries that I get from March-June.
                      4) Every week, I check the website's "pick list" to see what I'll be receiving .. and then I go to two sites (predominantly) to find recipes: www.cookinglight.com & www.foodandwine.com. As a previous poster mentioned, finding recipes for "dandelion greens" and other oddities can be challening ... but when you find the perfect dandelion green salad with parma ham, figs, and almond vinagarette ... you feel like a (healthy) rock star.
                      5) for me, the negatives that other posters have mentioned are FAR outweighed by the positives. This is even more so when you consider that San Diego county has a 12-month season for veggies ... so there's something new for each season. For $26, I consider my large share a steal. (AND - when you've accumulated more turnips and carrots than you could image consuming, make a stew, freeze half, and then you have 5 day's worth of easy dinners!!
                      )If, in fact, you are considering Be Wise Ranch and are still on the fence, please allow me to persuade you to try the "trial period" that they offer. I'm pretty sure you'll be on board after one delivery ... =) Also, they DO allow farm visits ... they are usually scheduled every quarter or so. Call and ask. You can also ask the kind people on the other end of the line about pickup locations ... for example, there's nothing near me, but I found a good location halfway between my work and home, so it ends up being pretty convenient to just stop on my way (since that delivery location is open in the evenings). They're very helpful.

                      Let me know what you think if you end up trying them!!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ohm86

                        Yes, I am looking at Be Wise ranch. I thought their website said they weren't ready to allow visits, so I'm glad to hear they do!

                        I was thinking of doing a small share every other week... but you do a large share every other week? Do you end up with a lot of veggies? Do you think a small share would be too small? The difference in cost between the small and large is so negligible, but I was afraid I'd end up with too much.

                        One of the things I guess I didn't consider is the freshness of the CSA veggies compared to the ones from the grocery. I suppose that would make a difference.

                        As for pick-up locations, the one for Poway isn't really that close to my house. There's a very close one next to work (Encinitas), but the problem is that some weeks I work in our San Diego office and I'd hate to have to schedule a day in Encinitas just to pick up a box. Maybe I'll just suck it up and take the extra 10 minutes a week to drive to the "Poway" location.

                        I do think we'll try their trial period, but it probably won't be until mid-May when we come back from our vacation. Less than a month to go and we still haven't ironed out plans and reservations so I just don't want anything else to have to think about!

                        1. re: leanneabe

                          Well, to give you an idea of what our last box was like, we had:

                          2 small heads of green leaf lettuce
                          1 large head of leaf lettuce (they make sure to put in lots of salad greens in the large shares - small shares get maybe 1 small head)
                          1 bunch green onions
                          3 very large beets plus their greens (this week was red, but sometimes the striped variety)
                          3 large heads of broccoli (btw, it's the best broccoli I've EVER tasted)
                          1 small head cabbage
                          3 pints strawberries
                          6 small zucchini
                          3 lemons
                          2 avocado
                          flat leaf parsley

                          This time of year, it's common to get bok choy, turnips, carrots (yellow, orange, and white), kale, swiss/rainbow chard, fennel, and herbs. Lots of squash in the winter, gorgeous heirloom tomatoes (4-5 varieties) in the summer. The oranges and apples that come from their orchards are awesome, too.

                          The biggest difference between a small and large share is the "filler" quantities: the lettuces, squashes, oranges ... enough to feed a family. Sometimes, I think the small shares actually get better selection (ie when the pick quantities are low for a certain crop, it goes into the small shares). When I've mentioned this to small share people at my pickup location, they express large share envy ... so I guess the grass is always greener!!

                          In terms of whether or not we have a ton of veggies left over ... I've occasionally had to toss extra carrots, green onions, and bok choy (I need to find a way to use this aside from stir fry! A girl can only eat so much stir fry ...) I also usually take all of the oranges to work and let my coworkers attack them, otherwise I'd have to eat two a day to get through them all.

                          I find I really need to plan out how to use all of the produce to get through it all - if I end up using some CSA produce every night, I usually don't have any left over. My advice would be to start with the small share every other week, since that was what you were planning to do already, and check out what's in the large share when you go for your pickup. If you, too, end up with large share envy, they make it very easy to change. =)

                          One other thing about this particular CSA that I love - there's no limit to the number of deliveries you can cancel, so long as you let them know by phone or email by the Sunday prior to the delivery. I travel a lot, and I end up cancelling at least one delivery per quarter. Most CSAs that I've looked into either don't let you cancel or have a max number (usually 2 or 3) per year. Huuuuge perk.

                          1. re: ohm86

                            I've been looking into doing the Be Wise CSA trial as well. thanks for the info!
                            If you cancel a shipment, does it get added on to later? or is that one gone forever?

                            1. re: Jeters

                              They credit your bill for the next quarter. Yup, they rock. Go ahead and say it - you know you were thinking it. =) But seriously, it really feels like the family farm that it is ... even down to the photocopied newsletter that comes every month or so from the owner.

                              1. re: ohm86

                                You should get some credit for recommendations or something :) I was debating myself between Tierra Miguel and Be Wise Ranch, but you've made my decision for me.

                                Now to talk my parents into splitting a large share with me!


                                1. re: Kuisine

                                  Great thread! Just an FYI, Tierra Miguel is also a biodynamic farm operation. http://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamic...

                                  As I understand it, biodynamics takes the organic concept to the next level in that it considers the soil as a living organism and strives to "heal" it through the judicious use of field preparations and specific composts. There was a study done in New Zealand in the early 90s that was able to demonstrate that biodynamic processes can increase the health of the soil. By health they mean nutrient density of the soil, quality of humus, etc. Biodynamics also uses an astrological planting calendar, which, in reality, would align it more with the pagan calendars and the natural/seasonal cycles used by early man and civilizations.

                                  Leanneabe is right, I can confirm that it is easily possible to get out of Henry's for less than $10 a week if you're feeding a household of 2. That said, I find the quality sporadic ranging from excellent to suspect with their loss leaders (i.e. 3 green peppers for $1.00) no usually lasting a week. What kills my bill there are the supplements, which are pretty good.

                                  I, too, have looked at Be Wise Farms and vascilated back and forth between whether to try them or not. Clearly, the "or not" won out ;-). For an agricultural county - and San Diego really is one - there are surprisingly few CSAs. This thread has done a lot to put the issue back on my plate (so to speak), maybe it's time to reconsider and try it.

                      2. I want to add that some CSAs are not as good as others. My first CSA experience was disappointing. We got a sad little bag of vegetables each week. It seemed like the farm was not producing enough for its members, but instead of giving people enough of any one thing, they would divide each item they harvested that week among all the members. We'd get so many odds and ends, but not enough of anything to make a side dish for two.

                        The CSA we belong to now is fantastic. We get a huge box for $26 a week. There is no way I could buy such a quantity of organic vegetables anywhere for that. (I was amazed that the o.p. does so well at the farmer's market. I easily spend $50 or $60 for a week's worth of vegetables at mine.

                        What really determines whether you'll come out ahead financially is whether you can keep up with stuff. It really helps to have lots of time. You don't just need time to cook, but also time to plan how to use all the unusual things that are not in your normal repertoire.

                        Also, it's great if your CSA has a swap box at the pickup site. I'm so grateful to be able to swap the things I don't like for things I do. It saves a huge amount of waste.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: CathleenH

                          I guess I should have made it clearer that my goal was to see how much I could buy for $20 at the farmer's market. =) If I had just gone shopping and bought whatever I liked, I certainly could have spent $50!

                          1. re: CathleenH

                            "instead of giving people enough of any one thing, they would divide each item they harvested that week among all the members. We'd get so many odds and ends, but not enough of anything to make a side dish for two."

                            This was my experience, excepting what easily grows in abundance here. What am I supposed to do with one little pattypan and one yellow squash? (I made calabacitas with extra grocery store veggies, btw.) It would've been nice to get the choice of 3 pattypans or three zukes. When I asked, they would roll their eyes and sigh loudly, then essentially say "no" in more words. Why? We were given the opportunity to give feedback only at the end of the subscription. I often saw produce grown by the farmers in the CSA for sale at the co-op where we picked up. What they sold to the co-op looked like the best of the crop, while the subscribers got what could be described as second best.

                            I must say I was more happy than frustrated in general, though. The weird miniscule amounts of some itmes and seconds were far outweighed by the freshness and quality. I just wish they were more responsive and polite. I don't expect to be treated like a pain in the heiney by someone I'm supporting financially.

                            1. re: amyzan

                              When I first started with my CSA, one of the things I really liked about it was that I was supporting a neighbor. I assumed that CSA's were the bulk of a farmers income. Turns out - that's not true. While nobody should be treated rudely, especially by someone who is profitting of you, farmers get far more income from the markets than they do from their subscribers. Not that it's right, but that is probably the produce looked so much better at the market. I think the main benefit for farmers is that they get a huge chunk of cash in the winter when they need it, eith to live on, or buy seeds, etc.

                              As for the request to get three squash or Zucchini, rather than one of each; again no need for rudeness on the farmers part, but it is probably a request they get often and they probably have a very good reason to deny that request. Maybe they used to let people pick and choose and the people who came late never got anything good. Who knows, but I bet there is a good reason.

                              1. re: hilltowner

                                Our CSA told us up front we were providing seed money for the following spring, as our CSA doesn't begin until May and ends in September or early October. I'm sure they had good reasons for the way they operated, but if the consumer isn't happy, perhaps they should reconsider? I know I wasn't the only person who asked.

                                Don't get me wrong, I love the idea, I really do. I just wish that the reality here was more like what they describe in their brochures. I stuck with them for three years, hoping they'd become more subscriber oriented. I finally decided I'd be better off choosing their produce from the co-op grocery than having to take what they gave me each week. I'm certainly not saying anyone shouldn't support local farmers. Maybe here they'll eventually get wise as to how it's done out on the west coast, because it certainly sounds from this thread that CSAs there are more responsive.

                                1. re: hilltowner

                                  I'm not sure there is a good reason to divide small crops into miniscule portions and distribute them to all members. Our current CSA packs adequate portions of everything into their boxes. They clearly state that when there is not enough of a crop to go around, then some boxes will contain good-sized portions of what there is and the other boxes will contain something else. What exactly you get is the luck of the draw, but everybody gets an equal amount of vegetables by weight.

                                  I much prefer this approach because I get workable portions of things. With the old CSA, I was necessarily reduced to making a melange, stew or glop of random vegetables just to have enough for a side dish for two people.

                            2. Wow, am I glad you asked about this. I had never heard of it but it sounds like just the thing for us. We have one lone organic farmer at our farmer's market and he usually has a very small offering. I always buy something from him but it's never much because he just doesn't have much. I found a few of the csa farms sort of near me and it looks like the one that's easiest to get to is a 25 minute drive. I think I'll try it this summer and see how it goes. I have a neighbor whi I think may be interested and if we do the every other week thing and share the driving that's just a once monthly drive for each of us. Sounds good to me. I'm very grateful for all of the information posted here!

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: xena

                                I'm sorry to sort of rain on your parade, but one of the main virtues of CSAs and local produce in general, is decreasing carbon emmissions besides the taste. 50 min RT drive for one family's week-worth of veggies doesn't seem fuel efficient to me.

                                1. re: welle

                                  Welle, I live in an area where the nearest grocery (and there is only one in our little town) has NO locally grown or corporate organic produce. None, not even Earthbound Farms. In order to buy corporate organic produce, I MUST drive at least 20 minutes. The co-op where I can buy locally grown produce is 25 minutes in the other direction. I can also drive to farmer's markets in the area, which are all at least 30 minutes drive one way. What would you suggest? (I do have a garden, BTW, but I can't grow everything I eat.)

                                  It may not be fuel efficient, but not everone lives in a metropolitan area, and can buy their produce or other groceries with minimal fuel usage. I think you're being myopic not to consider others' situations.

                                  1. re: welle

                                    I thought the "local" area had at least a 50 mile radius? Wasn't that a goal of the Eat Local campaign last year? Even if I walk to the grocery a block away, didn't someone have to drive all that distance to get there in a big, inefficient delivery truck? Either they drive to your close grocer, or you drive to their location. Considering xena is proposing, in essence, a carpool to pick up 2 people's worth of groceries with one car, I think that's better than nothing.

                                    1. re: leanneabe

                                      Well, yeah, it's still a lot less fuel usage to drive 50 minutes round trip to buy what was grown in the next county, than to drive ten minutes to buy what was grown in California and trucked or flown to Kansas. Welle, we have to consider the bigger picture, too. Michael Pollan did his research in San Francisco, an area that is unusually blessed for local produce. Not everyone is so lucky (or can afford to live there!) BTW, the Eat Local campaign here focuses on a 100 mile radius, I believe.

                                      1. re: amyzan

                                        Amy, in your situation when you have to drive 10 min minimum to get to anywhere, it's of course acceptable. But people in more populated areas should think twice, IMO. Yes, I believe eat local goes around 125 miles, but it's when it's delivered in bulk. If we all start driving 2 hours one-way, it would be much more inefficient than produce that traveled from California for three days (I believe they haul at least couple of tons of produce at ones). So in my situation living in NYC, if I had to drive 20 min to my nearest CSA, I would've probably skipped it (there is one starting within walking distance from me but I decided skip for commitment reasons). I also translate Eat Local into better decision-making when conventional shopping - I pay great attention to the address/origins on the produce labels.

                                    2. re: welle

                                      Yes, perhaps I am missing the point. Still, I want to support our local organic farms (and consume organic foods) even if by doing so I don't embrace the CSA concept fully. It seems to me to be better than not participating as I'd have to drive somewhere for our food anyway and hopefully the whole picture balances out in a positive way. Thanks for posting your thoughts. I am glad to learn more about CSAs.

                                  2. with regard to the fuel usage issue being brought up, as awareness of clean food and community support of local farm economies keeps growing, there have been a couple of noteworthy small movements off of the CSA model.

                                    one of the more interesting ones is the concept of "church supported agriculture," where a whole church congregation pools together to buy some CSA shares, enough to make it worth a local farmer's time to drop off the food in time for weekly services, when folks are arriving anyway, reducing wasted fuel. as a bonus, single people without huge produce needs still get to contribute by splitting shares with others, swapping of produce and recipes occurs freely, & there is general community building going on. there is no reason the concept couldn't work for a factory (drop off shares at the end of the shift) or office building-- ime, if there is enough monetary commitment, a local farmer will come to you. if your local CSA seems like a pain in the butt for some reason, maybe it would be easier (& more fun) to somehow figure out how do do it with others.