To CSA or not to CSA?

Oh I love weekends! Two reasons why:

The Grilled Banana Challah French Toast made a comeback.


Cuddly kitty!


 And this morning I awoke to a beautiful sunrise…


Sunrise plus icicles.


Have you heard about CSAs? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is a growing trend toward more local, fresh, and healthy food and supporting local farmers.

I started doing some research back in Detroit and was very excited about the idea of receiving a weekly box of goodies…but then, I knew we would be moving in the middle of summer- prime CSA distribution time. So I’ve had to wait until now to once again consider signing up for a weekly CSA box for the spring, summer, or fall (or all).

I’m looking into Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance (PCFA) to be my CSA provider. PCFA is a cooperative of more than 30 southwestern Pennsylvania family farms. I appreciate their philosophy and their seemingly organized ways. Their 2011 CSA sign up just opened for orders beginning in mid-April. They were also voted best CSA/farm share in western Penn by City Paper.

I really like the idea of eating locally grown produce and supporting those family farms. I also think it would be a great way to branch out from the normal fruits & veg that I buy and try to cook with something new. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around the cost….it’s not that it’s so expensive, it’s just a big chunk of change to consider. I would also be eating most of what’s in the box, as Hubs is not quite as adventurous.

Here are my options:
FARMER’S FRIEND SHARE: 32 weeks (mid-April through mid-November) – $770
HARVEST SHARE: 24 weeks (mid-June through mid-November) – $590
CABIN FEVER SHARE: 8 weeks (mid-April through mid-June) – $210

I’m considering the Harvest Share because I think I’ll like the produce the most in the summer and fall, and it’s not the full $770 commitment. $590 is still a lot of money…it works out to a little less than $25/week.

Thoughts? Advice? Your comments are appreciated!


21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 19:41:21

    I did the Penn’s Corner CSA a few years ago. A friend and I shared the longest (and most expensive) share. You get A LOT. Even though I was splitting it, there was more than I could eat (though I rarely cooked back then). I remember I would take a lot of the produce I didn’t use and leave it for the deer/critters in our city parks! But everything was very good–nice variety, great quality. Also (maybe because I wasn’t cooking), I felt it was way too long. By October I’d had enough. But now that I’m cooking a lot & eating much more produce than I used to, I’m thinking of doing it again. If I do, I’ll get it through Penn’s Corner.


  2. Julie
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 20:17:23

    Thanks for the info. I just wish they had different size boxes so I could get a smaller one for our small family.
    I would love to share with someone, but I don’t live in the city, so it’s not so convenient…


  3. Morgan @ Life After Bagels
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 00:01:55

    I loooooooove my CSA

    Email me if you want more details (ie what I pay and I could show you my posts from when we got our delivery)


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:53:07

      Thanks! I saw some CSA posts when I glanced through your blog. I’m looking forward to reading more about your veg recipes and book club 🙂


  4. Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 00:02:02

    I did a CSA here in Florida and I really loved it. The only issue for me was that I had to pick up my share, every other week…either Wed or Sat. The issue with this was my working schedule as an RN. I loved to have fresh, local food. It does involve a time commitment once you get the food home to wash and put away properly. I received tons of greens, so it took forever.
    I think in the end it’s a wise choice.


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:54:34

      Thanks! I also have a busy, random work schedule with some late nights so that will be an issue. And the CSA’s I’m looking at only offer one pick up day based on the location….that could be tough but I think it’s worth it in the end, too.


  5. girlinchucks
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 00:02:52

    I know how difficult coming up with the chunk of money to join a CSA. It was what kept me from joining for the longest time. Then I happened to read a neighborhood blog and found out that there was a small CSA based right out of my own area. The biggest bonus of all was that it was a no commitment set up. I can get a box any week I choose. Each box is $33 and since it’s just me, I’ve chosen to have them delivered on a bi-weekly basis. It’s worked out pretty well.

    Perhaps there is an option like this small operation near you?

    At any rate, I highly support joining a CSA. The produce is AMAZING. So fresh and it tastes so vibrant. I don’t ever want to go back to the sad veggies at the market!


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:55:32

      So true about sad market veggies! I’ve actually done some more research into smaller operations around Pittsburgh. It looks promising 🙂


  6. Dee
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 00:06:58

    I didnt do a CSA this year because the cost was more than what my budget allowed. Instead I shop for my produce at local farm stands rather than the large grocers. Not all of the produce is locally grown, but I would rather help out a small local businessman than some large corporation. Ive built a great relationship with my local guys and they are always saving some of the best picks for me. Also, because they know that i’m on a budget its not unusual for me to open my bags when i get home and find a couple extra apples or oranges.


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:57:11

      Aww I like that you have “local guys”! When I moved to Pittsburgh last summer, I checked out all the farmer’s markets because I want to make more of an effort to help small local businesses, too. Thanks Dee!


  7. Heather
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 00:36:59

    If you like kale go for it! My best advice for a CSA is to be flexible and willing to try all vegetables. I had never had kale, turnips, fennel and some other items before my CSA and now I love them!


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:58:36

      I’m starting to experiment with kale! And I just got into using turnips, though I don’t think I’m a fan of fennel (licorice-y, right?). Trying new veggies is definitely a plus for me! Thanks 🙂


  8. Megan (Running Foodie)
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 00:48:30

    Hi Julie! I found my way there through Caitlin’s tweet. I LOVE my CSA! We pay monthly, so it’s not as huge a chunk of cash at once as yours, but it works out to be about $25/box. We get a box every other week (we have the option to get it more or less often, as well as to get bigger boxes if we want, for more $$ of course!), through the whole year. We get our boxes on Friday and I do my meal planning/grocery shopping on Sunday, so I meal plan around what we have from the box which forces me to use everything, including things I might not normally cook it! It has definitely made me a more adventurous cook and, even though we ate pretty clean/healthy before, has really upped the amount of veggies we eat on a daily basis. Our CSA has a great feature on their website where you can search by ingredient for recipes ( This has been really helpful when I get, say, collard greens or bok choy, which I had never cooked with before joining a CSA! It’s also great because a lot of these recipes tend to be pretty simple, which really highlights the produce!

    It looks like Pen’s Corner offers recipes in their weekly CSA newsletter and on their website as well.

    I don’t want to write you a novel, but basically I think if you like to cook and are willing to eat some new/different things, a CSA is great! I also think $25/box is reasonable, since you probably won’t be buying as much produce on your weekly grocery store trips either. In general, our bill is usually about $30 less on weeks that we get a box, so I don’t feel like it’s a waste of money! I also think we get more for $25 in our CSA box than we would for $25 at the farmer’s market, and it’s still local (sometimes organic) produce!


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 03:06:26

      You bring up so many good points Megan! I really like that some places include recipes and are helpful with how to incorporate new (to you) fruits & veg. I certainly won’t mind upping my produce intake, too! And while I haven’t seen what’s in a box yet, I can believe that $25 gets you more in a CSA box than at the farmer’s market. Many people have mentioned how big the boxes usually are. I think it’s a good investment. Thanks 🙂


  9. stacyeats
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 01:52:44

    Hi Julie, I get a weekly CSA box in my hometown of Atlanta and I absolutely love it! I pay $20 on a weekly basis and can skip any week if we so please. At first I was also worried that my boyfriend would hate it and I’d end up having to eat all of the food myself, but it turns out he loves it (he even gets sad when we don’t have a weekly box). We have been able to try a lot of new (to us) fruits and veggies. New veggies also means new recipes, which has been a fun adventure as well. I am going to be honest though and tell you that the two of us are often unable to eat everything in the box…which at least makes the compost critters happy. 🙂 Are there any other CSAs in your area that offer boxes on a week by week basis? If not, I do think the Harvest Share is a good option. During those months we got a lot of tomatoes and summer squash. As Fall approached we got butternut squash and sweet potatoes to name a few. I know this is quite the long response, but basically I love having a weekly CSA box. Not only does it get us trying new foods, it also supports local farms!


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 03:01:16

      Thanks Stacy! I’m glad to hear your boyfriend surprised you with his attitude. Maybe that will happen with my husband, too…I’ve done some more research and found another local CSA that offers every other week boxes, so that may be a good option for me! I really like the idea of supporting local farms, too 🙂


  10. Britney
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:27:00

    I had a small CSA share all to myself last year, and while I loved the food it was a lot, even though I am a vegetarian. Next year I’m splitting the next size with a friend – she and her boyfriend will eat half between them, and I’ll be able to have slightly fewer veggies for myself (the money savings is nice too!).

    You can also freeze what you get and eat it all year round – I’m still working on veggies I froze in July and August!


    • Julie
      Jan 25, 2011 @ 03:02:40

      Freezing is a good idea! I don’t know if I’d do it right though…
      I also like the idea of sharing, but I don’t know a lot of the people that live around me. Maybe I’ll try every other week boxes. Thanks Britney!


  11. Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 15:08:53

    I’ve been wanting to join a CSA! We travel a lot during the summer, so I always end up not signing up. The harvest one sounds good to me– those are definitely the peak produce months!


  12. Whitney
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 22:07:11

    I saw that you joined 20sb, so I thought I’d stop by and say hi! Very cool blog…that banana french toast thing looks AMAZING =)



  13. Trackback: CSA Update « Motor City Girl in the Steel City

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