Labels like “organic,” “local,” “hormone-free” and “grass-fed” on produce often mean something less desirable as well: expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Farms across the US have started to provide Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), which allow local households to purchase a small share of the farm’s seasonal yield for an annual fee that amounts to far less than grocery store prices, while assuming some of the risk that goes into farming (i.e. if the lettuce gets attacked by a bug, you don’t get your money back). The savings come by cutting out the middleman – members pick up shares directly from the farm, and some items are even pick-your-own.
A full share usually costs between $400-$600, but just a half share is often enough. You can also divide a share among friends or neighbors. Not every CSA farm is certified organic, but most work without antibiotics, hormones or pesticides. For $200, you will definitely spend less on your produce over a year than you would buying organic at the super market. Purchasing a CSA share can also be an investment in your health; incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet will lower your healthcare bills down the road.
If you’re worried about not recognizing the food you pick up, let alone knowing how to prepare it, fear not! Eat Real Good’s meal planning tool can suggest recipes and create a supplementary grocery list for you based on what you’ve picked up at the farm.
For more information about how CSAs work, or to find a participating farm near you, check out the United States Department of Agriculture – and feel free to share your own CSA tips and recipes here!