I have always bought organic vegetables at the grocery store and I try to do my best to support local produce stands, farmers markets and Co-Ops. But recently I’ve been interested in learning more about local Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs. Buying into a CSA is a bang for your buck, gives you access to the freshest vegetables and supports your local farmers and growers. To convince myself to buy into a CSA I started comparing CSA purchases to more conventional methods, like buying at the nearest grocery store.
Community Supported Agriculture rocks
I stumbled on an article by StackExchange that described some of the major problems with buying produce from a grocery chain. Typically, the average travel distance of your produce from the farm to the store is 1500 miles. At a typical grocery chain, vegetables can stay on the shelves of the store for up to a week before they are purchased or thrown out. You might be buying produce that is a week and a half old before you even get it home! Also, in order for grocery chains to be able to ship and shelf the produce before it goes bad growers have to harvest it before it is ripe. When you harvest before the produce is ripe, you lose a lot of the nutritional value that could have formed if you had let it grow to it’s maturity. By buying your produce straight from the farm, you are cutting out the middle man so you and the farmers can afford to give the fruits and veggies a few extra days to ripen. Better quality, better shelf life, better for you.
Another plus of buying local is that You Are Buying Local. You are supporting your farmer and keeping the profits within your community. The farmer buys from you, you buy from them. A lot of people say buying local is just trying to selfishly keep profits to your community, but really you are increasing the profit potential everywhere. Money is not wasted on transportation and preservatives and can go directly back to growing more food. If everyone bought locally and the money remained central, the purchasing power of the dollar would increase. Plus, we as humans have a biological inclination to directly see those they have supported and helped–it’s more rewarding.
One concern I had when thinking about investing into a CSA was the thought that it would burn through my wallet. But I did some quick calculations and compared what I paid in the grocery store to what a CSA would charge me. Live Science showed that Americans consume about 415 pounds of vegetables per year or 8 pounds per week. The average CSA is about 15 pounds per share so almost enough for a family of two. The average price per pound varies between seasons due to the crops being harvested but the average was $1.53 per pound.
Local Harvest had an article that compared conventional and organic produce prices between farmers markets, grocery stores and premium grocery stores. The results showed:
Premium Grocery Store = $2.14/lb
Grocery Store = $1.79/lb
Farmers Market = $1.87/lb
Premium Grocery Store = $1.95/lb
Grocery Store = $1.66/lb
Farmers Market = $1.88/lb
The evidence is clear! It’s ultimately cheaper to buy organic produce through a CSA than by other organic and conventional methods. You will also get healthier, fresher produce that will last longer, and you help your community to boot! It’s time to buy into your local farm. Use the Local Harvest CSA page to find a CSA in your neighborhood.