Are you shopping for a CSA to potentially sign up for? Among other things, you'll want to ask about these three characteristics:
Pay it forward? CSA shares cost several hundred dollars (the exact amount depending on the particular farm and size of the share). Most farms want your commitment (and money) by April; some have sign-ups as early as February (sometimes with a discount). Farmers need to know who’s in before the start of the growing season so they can plan accordingly and have money to purchase seeds and other necessities. But whereas you used to always have to pay for the entire season up front, some CSAs now offer more flexible payment schedules. Some even allow you to pay per delivery.
Downsizing or upsizing. Many CSAs today offer a choice of share sizes to fit your household needs, whether you are a single person or a couple, have a small or large family, or are in another living situation. To get an idea of what works for you, consider that a full share may yield about 4 to 5pounds a week at the beginning of the growing season—of such items as spring onions, leafy greens, peas, and herbs. In mid-season, it could supply 5 to 7 pounds of tomatoes, peppers, and heartier greens. By the end of the season you can expect to be picking up 15 or more pounds of potatoes, onions, and various other root vegetables, along with broccoli and winter squash, for example.
Beyond produce. In addition to produce, some CSAs offer shares for meat, poultry, cheese, eggs, bread, cider, yogurt, honey, or other local foods—sometimes even flowers and soap. How this works varies.In some cases, a CSA farm that grows only produce may partner with local farms that raise chickens, for instance.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.