Community Supported Agriculture Cost Breakdown II

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Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to save money on fresh, local, organic produce. Join a farm share to enjoy the local bounty.

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.

csa cost breakdown
Produce from my local farm share

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!

The Message

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.

Check out the other posts in my “Saving Money” series:
Saving Money with Homemade Snacks
Saving Money with Vegetarian Dinners
Saving Money with Homemade Staples
Saving Money with Reduced Produce

13 Comments

  1. What a great cost breakdown! I have lived in places with large organic produce sections but still thought my CSA was a great deal. I strive to put up as much of the produce that I can, and I find that my family eats from our farm share 12 months out of the year (even though the CSA season is May-October). Sure, I buy other veggies but when you’ve already paid for the tomatoes in your pantry, or the pumpkin in your freezer, it’s easy to plan frugal meals around them. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Kirsten! I appreciate hearing your perspective. I’m glad you’ve been able to process so much food to store for use during the winter. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so nice to have a well stocked pantry.

  2. I’ve always wanted to join a CSA, but the closest farm with one (probably the closest farm, period) is at least 15 miles away from here. I don’t want to waste the gas!

    Thanks for linking up to Frugal Food Thursday, and come on by and check out my cheap recipes!

  3. I will have to look into it again, but last I checked the local CSA was far more expensive then what I was paying for produce.

    1. I hope you’ll look into it again, Debra. I know that the cost of a CSA share varies from one market to the next. Even with my farm share, there’s always sticker shock associated with paying everything up front. If you break down the cost according to the number of weeks, and also look at how much produce you’re getting each week, you may find that it’s not as bad a deal as you thought. Many shares where I live are more expensive than mine, but those shares often include more fruit. Good luck!

  4. Yes, the upfront cost is what has held me back from joining my local CSA. In my case, we’d probably have more veg than we need – and it might detract from what I’m doing with my garden. But tomorrow is another day….

    1. If you have a large garden, a CSA might not make sense for you. As far as the volume of food from a farm share, I’ve had a great experience splitting a share with a neighbor so neither of us is overwhelmed by the quantity.

      1. Well, that is an idea – splitting with a friend or neighbour. I don’t in fact have a big garden but if I joined the CSA then I would do gardening at the farm and perhaps not have enough time to garden at home as well, which is amongst other things the raison d’etre for my blog.

  5. I love this! My biggest concern with joining a CSA has always been the upfront cost and if it would be enough for our family. Thanks so much for breaking it down – it seems worth it since the cost savings is huge!

    1. I hope you’ll give it a try, Stephanie. I do end up supplementing my farm share with a few veggies from the store each week, and I’m only feeding four people. But it’s a great foundation for the menu plan.

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