How to Choose a CSA or Organic Produce Delivery Service
Healthy, sustainable, organic produce is a priority for all of us, but it’s tricky to choose the right CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or organic produce delivery service that will meet your household’s needs. It’s important to understand their differences and to identify the priorities most important for your family. We recommend you consider the three Vs when making your choice: variety, value and variability.
We’re sure you’ve heard, variety is the “spice of life,” so you certainly don’t want to limit your exposure to flavors, colors, aromas and nutrients. Many CSA’s offer a great variety of produce, many of which you may have not been exposed to previously, but generally are only available during their local growing season. This of course gives you access to locally grown produce (which is wonderful) but you may have fewer choices during the shoulder seasons and even less when the cold weather comes (some northwest CSA’s only operate for seven months of the year). If the region you live in happens to be cold, rainy, or covered in snow for part of the year, your choices may be few.
If you want a wider range of nutritious choices and would like them year-round, and are willing to have them sourced outside your geographic region, an organic produce delivery might be the way to go. In general it will have more options, but some of those options may be from outside of your specific locality (unless, like Full Circle, the company allows for box customization – then you can determine exactly what you’d like in your box as well as the amount of local produce you’d like to receive each week).
Each service endeavors to supply healthy, sustainable organic produce that people can enjoy in its freshest state; you just need to decide how much variety you and your family require and whether you’d prefer a seasonal local offering or a wider range of choices from a larger area.
Compared to conventional grocery stores, both CSAs and organic produce delivery services deliver great value in organic fruits and vegetables, but there are some differences to consider. Some CSAs require a commitment of at least a season; this allows the farmer to offset costs of seasonal expenses like fertilizer, fuel for farm vehicles, the cost of seed and other incremental costs.
Organic produce delivery services, like Full Circle, are a mixture of distribution and farm; this allows more flexibility in ordering and leads to an easy pay-as-you-go structure, allowing you to support local farms, while not having to make a seasonal or annual cash commitment, which can be hard on your wallet. All local farms need support and buying your food from them directly is a great way to help them thrive. If you have time, visit local farms, meet the farmers, and get to know their practices before making a decision.
Many CSAs are supported through consumers becoming members by buying a “share” of a farmer’s seasonal crop. If the farmer has a great harvest, a CSA may provide more value. A farm may get a bumper crop of kale or carrots and members may get more than usual one year as compared to another. If, on the other hand, the farm has a bad harvest, a member may not get as much as the year or season before.
This allows a farmer to share the risk of farming with those that benefit from the harvest and not be beholden to banks. In addition, a CSA member is beholden to the produce quality of their farm – whatever grows is what they get. This allows farmers to experiment with new crops and try new things, but can lead to getting some tiny misshapen squash, or gigantic parsnips!
Produce delivery services that source as well as grow their produce have an easier time maintaining a consistent amount and quality in their member’s orders, as quality is key to keeping members happy and healthy!
How comfortable you are with shared risk, and how adventurous and inventive you are in the kitchen is something you should consider when choosing between a CSA and an organic produce delivery service like Full Circle.
CSAs and organic produce delivery services are both healthy, land-sustaining options for acquiring your fruits and vegetables. By evaluating the three Vs, you can decide which one is right for you and your family.
Are you a member of a CSA or a produce delivery service? What do you like best about it? Let us know in the comments below. Want to learn more about Full Circle? Visit our home page.