How do you decide which CSA is right for your family? Here are few things to think about when looking into CSAs.
Pick-up location: Make sure that your pick-up location is convenient. If you choose a CSA with a pick-up location 20 miles from your home, you may find that you can't make the drive every week because life can get in the way, but a quick stop nearby is even easier make than a trip to the grocery store!
Content: Different farms offer different items. Some farms stick to mostly veggies, while others will offer fruit, meat, dairy, eggs and more. More variety usually means higher price. Ask farmers what their average box contains.
Extras: Ask farmers if they offer special events for members. Some farms host workshops, work days and social gatherings that are included with the membership.
Methods: If sustainability, pasture-raised, organic or other farming methods are important to you, ask the farmer about their growing practices.
Size: Eight tomatoes, three bunches of spinach, four beets, five ears of corn, two peppers, one bunch of kale, two turnips and three leeks may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it is. A large CSA box usually feeds 3-5 people while a smaller box feeds 1-3 people. If a farm only offers large boxes and your family isn't made of big veggie eaters, ask a friend if they are interested in sharing a box.
Payments: Most CSAs require you to pay up-front because this gives the farms the funding they need to get planting at the beginning of the growing season, although some may offer payment plans and work shares (you work an agreed upon number of hours a week to help pay for your box). Ask the farm what their payment structure is and how you can pay (check, debit, online, cash).
Substitutions: Everyone has something that they just don't like, and some people have food allergies. Find out if the CSAs you are considering allow you to mix-and-match a share that meets your needs, or they allow substitutions.
Flexibility: Vacation plans this summer? Ask your farmer what happens if you miss a week. Can you have a friend pick up? Do they donate the food? Is every member given a "mulligan"?
Referrals: Ask around. Does your neighbor belong to a CSA? What about a co-worker? Find out what CSAs they would recommend and why.
Relationship: Stop by farmers markets (or the actual farms!) and get to know the farmers. You may meet someone that you have a great connection with or love the story behind their farm.
Still not sure where to start? See our Guide to Local CSAs for contact information for local CSA programs.