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The best kept secret about Community Supported Agriculture is that it can be an incredible bargain. Unlike farmers’ markets, where prices are often significantly higher than they are at the grocery store, farm shares provide local produce at a fraction of the cost you would find in the grocery store. I’ve been telling this to people for a long time, but over the summer, I decided to prove it.
Community Supported Agriculture Cost Breakdown, Part One: Recap
After picking up my farm share on a midsummer day, I headed over to my local Stop and Shop to see what I would pay for the same produce. My farm share costs $500 for the 21-week season, but since I split it with a friend, I pay $250 for my portion of the vegetables. This comes out to $11.90 per week. My CSA offers organically grown produce, so I planned to look at the price of organic vegetables at Stop and Shop. I was surprised to find that only two of the ten items I was looking for were available in organic form at the grocery store. But I wasn’t surprised to find that the CSA veggies were significantly cheaper. What I got for $11.90 at my farm would have cost me $17.69 at the grocery store, and my farm food was all organic. See here for the details.
CSA Cost Breakdown, Part Two
I’ve wondered if the same price difference would exist later in the growing season. So this week, after picking up my first farm share of autumn, I decided to do another price comparison. The difference was even more dramatic this time. I will break it down below, but I’m happy to report that this week’s farm share cost less than half of what the same food would have cost me at the grocery store. And I was surprised once again by the lack of organic choices. This time, not a single item that I got at my CSA was available in an organic version at Stop and Shop. I love their Nature’s Promise organic line, and I wish there were more of it in the produce section.
These are the 12 items I received in my farm share this week with the Stop and Shop prices:
- Small watermelon: $3.99
- Bunch sage: $2.00
- Bunch cilantro: $1.69
- 1½ lb. sweet potatoes: $1.94
- 4 ounces radishes: $.42
- 8 ounces jalapeno peppers: $1.75
- 8 ounces multicolored peppers: $1.25
- 1¼ lb. delicata squash: $1.61
- 2 lb. eggplant: $7.98
- Mizuna greens: $1.99 (they don’t stock this, but I substituted the price for a similar green)
- 6 ounces fingerling potatoes: $.49 (they don’t carry fingerling potatoes, but this is the red skin price)
- 12 ounces tomatillos: $1.49 (they didn’t have any in stock, but this is their standard price)
The grand total of these items at Stop and Shop was $24.91. My weekly farm share cost is $11.90 for organic versions of this same list of items. This is a savings of 52 percent!
I can’t stress this enough. Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to support the local food system, to get organic produce into your kitchen, and to get to know the farmer who grows your food. But that’s not all – CSA’s are also an amazing bargain! And I love the rhythm of picking up my produce each week and then putting together a meal plan based on what’s ready to pick at the farm.
If you’re looking for a farm share near you, check out www.localharvest.org. Many farms offer shares all year long, even here in the northeast.