It is interesting the reaction I get when I tell people the monthly cost of our CSA. A few seem unpleasantly surprised. Since most people do not purchase their produce separately from the rest of their groceries, they do not know how much they spend each week/month on this part of their food budget, so they have no comparison to base the cost of a weekly CSA purchase. So, this winter, when the farm was all but out of vegetables, I decided to put it to the test. I went to Harris Teeter to purchase my weekly supply of veggies, and paid for it separately from the rest of my groceries, just to see how it would sort out.
I noticed several things. First of all, vegetables from the grocery store were not as fresh and beautiful as veggies fresh from the farm. Overall selection was scarce, and of course the heirloom varieties were non-existent. Not only that, the serving sizes were smaller. The bundle of kale had only about 4 or 5 leaves of kale in it! Lastly, as hard as I tried, I had trouble sticking with only seasonal produce. I ended up with a few out of season items that probably came from another country that may not regulate their crops nearly as well as we do in the USA. Lastly, it was not cheap. At the end of the day, to purchase about 10 different produce items, it cost about $40.00. In trying to compare weekly costs, this was more than the cost of our CSA weekly share of about 10 local beautiful items.
Cost at the register is never the only thing to consider though. Some of the reasons I hate those couple of months in the winter, when I purchase my produce at the grocery store, are that I really prefer to support my friends, neighbors, and community with my business. I wanted a “face” to go with that grocery store produce. I wanted to know who grew my food. I wanted to know what kind of soil it grew in and what were the conditions of the farm it was grown on. What were the conditions of the workers who harvested this produce? I also am pretty picky about freshness because the fresher the produce, the more nutrients it likely contains. We had to eat our purchase really fast, in order to go through it, before it started looking sad. That indicated it was not too fresh when I bought it, which can mean less nutrition. Lastly, I do not like buying produce from other countries. One reason is that same loss of nutrients. Produce from South America does not get here the next day, maybe not the next week. Educating yourself on your own seasonal produce (in the Carolinas) is a great way not to be looking for peaches in the winter, since those peaches probably came from Chile. I’ll take a fresh local summer peach, and pass on the one that came all the way from another hemisphere, shipped thousands of miles, grown by people I don’t know, and grown in a way that I don’t know anything about the process. In the end, only you can decide if any CSA is “too expensive”, but do not base that expense only on the dollars you spend. There is so much more to account for than that. Keep it local please!
Eat your local veggies,