Pros and Cons of being a CSA member

PROS – There are many positives aspects to participating in a CSA.

1. Health and nutrition: our produce is naturally grown, without any any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, so you reduce your exposure to pesticide and other chemicals. Produce is harvested when ripe, at its maximal nutritional value, and it reaches you in less than 24 hours after harvest, so the nutrients haven’t had time to leach away.

2. Environmental health: the farm practices sustainable farming methods that foster a healthy farming ecosystem with a rich biodiversity, and it uses less water than conventional agriculture or urban developments.

3. Farm crew health: farm crews are not exposed to chemicals; they benefit from year-round employment, fair wages and healthy working and living conditions.

4. Supporting local farming: local family farms are vanishing from our landscapes. If we don’t support and encourage them, they will disappear to make room for more urban sprawl. Losing our farmland makes us more dependent on imported foods. Ninety percent of what you pay goes to the farms and ranches we work with. The remaining 10% goes to operating our pickup location.

5. Creative cooking: enjoy cooking healthy meals with a great diversity of seasonal produce. Enjoy over 200 different types of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Your refrigerator is always stocked with fresh food and you spend less time planning your meals.

6. Saving fossil fuel: the global food system takes about ten calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food; typical grocery store produce, even organic, travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table, or over 40 times the distance to our nearest farm. With the Tucson CSA, you reduce your carbon footprint.

7. Connecting with your food: know who grows it, how it is grown and where it is grown. Learn the history and traditions of each vegetable you eat.

8. Less expensive than store-bought organic produce. You also go shopping less frequently and are less inclined to buy processed and pre-packaged foods. Many of our members tell us that they food expenses decrease after joining the Tucson CSA.

9. Living more sustainably. As a CSA member, you take a PERSONAL and DIRECT step in addressing the flaws of our global food system. By paying attention to what you eat, you participate in a more environmentally and socially sustainable way of life in a direct and rewarding way. It’s a WIN-WIN situation.

10. Tell us your own reason(s)…

CONS – A CSA is not for everyone.  There are aspects of a CSA which can be challenging, some of which inherent to small scale organic farming, and others more a matter of convenience or personal likes and dislikes.

1. Heirloom variation: Unlike commercial hybrids which have a consistent appearance, size and reliable yield, heirloom vegetables are grown for flavor rather than looks, high yield, long shelf-life, or ease of packaging. While CSA vegetables and fruit generally look beautiful, they vary in size and appearance and do not follow the rules of systematic grocery store perfection.

2. Quality variation: Unfavorable weather and field conditions may occasionally cause crop shortages and imperfections, resulting in less-than-perfect quality of one or more types of vegetable for a while, or even their complete absence.  CSA farming is not unlike growing your own vegetables in your garden.

3. Bugs: Your organic produce may very occasionally contain some bugs, such as corn borers, little caterpillars, ladybugs or aphid. This is the nature of organic farming.

4. Repetition: The same vegetable or fruit may show up in your shares for several weeks in a row, to the delight of some members and the dismay of others.

5. No choice: You receive what the farmer gives you and you cannot pick and choose your produce. However, it can be fun to adjust your cooking habits to be ingredient-driven rather than recipe-driven.

6. Seasonal: Other than items that can be stored, such as onions, potatoes or dried beans, you receive produce that is in season. No cucumbers during winter and lots of them during summer. No greens during summer and lots of them during winter and spring.

7. Dislikes: You are challenged to be a creative cook and to overcome blocks or dislikes you may have toward certain vegetables or fruits.

8. Inconvenience: You have to pick up your share every week on a specific day during a specific time period. However, many members say that it is very rewarding to come to pick up their veggies: they enjoy the sense of community created by being surrounded by like-minded people.

9. Missing pickups: Your share is there for you every week on your pickup day. If you don’t pick it up, it is donated to charity. If you know ahead of time that you will miss a pickup, you can place your subscription on hold (must do so by midnight Friday of the week before).

10. Upfront payment: You must commit to and pay upfront for a six- or twelve-week block.

Check the FAQ link to see how you can approach these challenges.