CSA ~ glad it's finally over...
Funny how things have changed in just a few weeks! 20 weeks ago, hubby and I were really excited to receive our very first box of CSA produce. 20 weeks later we are so happy that it is finally over. Are we the only ones to feel this way about CSA?
We decided to sign up for CSA for the following reasons:
- "force" ourselves to eat more vegetables
- we expect the CSA stuff to be much more fresh than the store bought stuff and hence taste better
- we expect to find more varieties than what's available in the store
- we like the idea of being "surprised" every week
What makes us decide to divorce CSA:
- while the vegetables we receive are fresh, they don't necessarily taste good - we are particularly disappointed by the tomatoes that don't have a good tomato taste and corn that are not sweet
- although we did get a varieties of vegetables in every box, the varieties we receive every week stay the same for most part
- it's not uncommon to receive vegetables that we ourselves would not pick up in the store (e.g. brussel sprouts that are as small as grapes and corn that comes with worms)
Although we do like those who are involved in CSA and how they do business - they are honest about what we can expect to find in the box every week, our CSA honeymoon ended sooner than we had expected - and we are glad that we've only made a 20-week commitment, not a lifetime one...
Last year was the first year I was in the CSA and the first year the farm was doing it. So after the season was over they sent out a questionnaire, so I could comment about the things they might need to make adjustments to. We got so dogbone much lettuce that first year--WAY more than the two of us could eat. So I told them that. This year was a bad year; everything started late, and the variety wasn't good because there were just some things that plain didn't grow. It was chard for weeks and weeks and weeks.
I'm usually glad when it's over, too, but after the winter I'll be looking forward to it again.
Oh lord have mercy I feel you on the lettuce. I get a box every other week, and there has been lettuce (at least 2 heads, as many as 4 heads) in EVERY SINGLE BOX. I secretly love the "off week" when I don't have to eat a dang salad!
But otherwise, we've gotten a great mix of all sorts of things, including other greens and things I wouldn't normally eat very often. It's done a pretty good job of broadening my horizons. (though sometimes I wish there was more fruit and less veg in the box)
We have done a CSA for 5 years, and I hate it when the season ends. The first year, I was a little happy because I missed a few veggies that we would eat a lot, but then after awhile our diet changed to get used to the different veggies. Now, I hate having to choose veggies from the store or farmer's market! Just too many decisions to make : )
However, our CSA is very good. The tomatoes are fantastic, and we rarely get poor produce. And the produce lasts much longer than from the store because it is so fresh.
I'm sure quality varies widely by CSA. Ours seems good. Yes, most of the time the stuff isn't as pretty as in the store, but the stuff we are getting is organic (except on rare occasion when they get stuff from neighbors and inform us otherwise), and the stuff in stores is often grown to look good at the expense of taste. Our corn this year was fantastic (we are in southwestern PA).
We are in our second year of the CSA, and I think so far this year we have had a bit more trouble getting through everything (just the two of us). Our CSA allows us to record a "never eat" list, and they do their best not to give us those things. It works for all but a few weeks. We don't use beets, for example, but we did get those a few times. We find folks at work or whatever who will use them. We got one cauliflower all year, which we gave away. I think we got chard or kale once or twice. (We didn't have those on the list last year, but we found it just wasn't something we were interested in, even after trying to use them.)
Still, I think we are eating more veggies. They've also done a great new thing this year in hooking up with a couple of local cheese producers to get cheese once a month. They grow mesclun greens which are really fantastic for a salad. All different types of lettuce, different tomatoes (they grow San Marzanos as well as some heirloom varieties), jalepenos and tomatillos (not as many of the latter this year, unfortunately), various other peppers, the list goes on and on. The variety varies by the time of year. No mesclun in the middle of summer :-(. Right now we get winter squashes and more potatoes, apples and cider, etc. in addition to lettuce and mesclun. Our season continues until just before Thanksgiving.
Anyway, that's enough about ours. Perhaps there is another CSA option in your area that would be better? It's possible that you won't be satisfied with any of them, or possible that all in your area are mediocre, but I wouldn't think that your experience is typical of CSAs in general.
Do you have other CSA farms in your area? We've bought shares from two farms over the past few years, and we've been so spoiled. Farming is something with a skill level like every other craft and profession; you might just be working with someone who is going through a learning curve.
I'm so glad you share your experience. I recently tried out a local organic produce delivery service and fortunately there was no contract so after my first delivery I cancelled. I knew going into it that all the fruits and veggies weren't local, but they assured me that most were and all were organic. When you signed up you answered a questionaire and could designate which items you didn't want. For instance, I didn't want kiwi (not local).
I received my first delivery and for $30 bucks got 5 ears of corn, 5 small green peppers, some bananas, romaine lettuce, 4 potatoes, 2 kiwi and 3 apples. Hardly a value and I had specified I didn't want kiwi AND the apples and kiwi were from New Zealand! What NC has no apples in October? Shipping produce from New Zealand hardly meets my ideas of "organic".
I had joined this service for the same reasons you mentioned. I then considered joining a CSA in the spring, but I think the Farmers Market is the best way to support my local farmers and feed my family.
In addition to Farmers Market, hubby and I are also going to expand our vegetable garden next year - everything we successfully grew ourselves (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers) this year taste so much better than what we received from CSA and the store-bought ones - and they are 100% organic too!