As I’ve been learning more about the different CSA options available in the Wichita area, it is increasingly enticing to “take the plunge” and try out a CSA share. But…let’s take a reality check. A

Early spring CSA bundle. Photo courtesy of Strong Roots Healthy Farming.

CSA is NOT right for every person or every family. Here are some things you should consider before signing up for a CSA share.

  1. Do you like to EAT vegetables? If you and your family do not routinely eat a lot of vegetables, getting a big box of vegetables every week might result in a lot of waste. If you want to create a new habit of eating fresh veggies, maybe try a half share or split your share with someone else.
  2. Do you like to / know how to COOK fresh vegetables? And I mean more than potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Do you know what to do with a turnip? Kale? Chard? Kohlrabi?Beets? If you don’t already have a good grasp of cooking with fresh vegetables, you may want to make plans to boost your skills before signing up for a box. I find that even though I know how to cook with almost any vegetable, it sometimes is a challenge to find time to deal with a pile of chard or a bag of beets. Of course, some people like their CSA precisely because it DOES provide new / unique produce items that you can’t find anywhere else.
  3. Are you willing to adjust your eating patterns depending on the season? Joining a CSA is going to make you intimately familiar with what is in season and when. Granted, you can always supplement from the grocery store, but it can be hard to want to spend more money on vegetables when your refrigerator is full of fresh CSA produce.
  4. Can you pay for your vegetables up front? Most shares are between $200 and $500, depending on the farm, the number of weeks, and what is included. Many farms may allow you to make payments, but you are still paying for those groceries weeks or months before you receive them.
  5. Can you pick up your box every week during the CSA season? Each CSA has a delivery / drop-off schedule, and if the schedule of a given farm doesn’t work for you, it probably isn’t a good option. Most CSAs consider that if you don’t pick up your box, you just don’t get it and are out the money. Some CSAs will go for 12 weeks, some for 20 weeks, some for 25 weeks or more. The CSA season and schedule will impact what you get and if it works for you.
  6. How big is each share? What types of produce are included? Again, each CSA is different. Talk to the farmer before making a decision if it is unclear of how much produce to expect. They can also help you determine if your family might want a half share, a double share, or a regular size share. Many CSAs will also pass along unexpected bounty AND unexpected crop failures. The farm may be planning to provide you 5-10 types of vegetables every week, but the farm is weather dependent. You could end up with a week where all you get are a bunch of tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint rather than something more diverse. Also, some CSAs may be heavier in providing leafy greens, others may provide more root crops. You should think about what you would prefer.

You may have realized that joining a CSA may not be a great fit for you or your family right now…and that’s okay! You can share the information about our local CSAs with your friends or family members that might be interested. You can still support local farmers buy purchasing their products from other venues, including our great local farmers’ markets.