CSA Cost Breakdown

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This CSA cost breakdown shows how joining a CSA farm share is a great way to save money on fresh, local, organic produce.

Before I first joined a CSA, I was under the impression that a farm share would be significantly more expensive than buying produce at the grocery store. Paying a lump sum of money at the beginning of the growing season made it feel that way, and the prospect of getting produce that we didn’t like seemed daunting. Despite my reservations, I finally decided three years ago that it was time to give it a try. I loved the idea of getting fresh, local, organic produce and supporting a local farmer. What I didn’t realize at that time was that joining a CSA can be a great deal financially.

My summer farm share at Vanguarden CSA in Dover, Massachusetts costs $500 for about 22 weeks of produce. This farm isn’t certified organic, but they don’t use chemicals, which is good enough for me. The organic certification process is very expensive and time-consuming, so many local farmers don’t bother with it. I split my share with a friend, so I pay $250 for my portion of the vegetables. This comes out to $11.36 per week, and it doesn’t sound so expensive when you look at it that way. For my family of four, this is a good amount of vegetables to get us through the week, although I do supplement my farm share with fruit and additional vegetables from the grocery store and farmer’s market.

I came home from the farm with a lovely bag of produce yesterday, and I decided to go on a field trip with my children to our local Stop and Shop. I wanted to compare the price of the produce I got from my farmer with the price of those same items at the grocery store. We planned to calculate the price of organic vegetables wherever possible so we would be comparing “apples to apples” (although sadly, there aren’t any actual apples at my CSA!). I was surprised to find that only two of the ten items I received in my farm share this week were available in an organic version at Stop and Shop.

CSA Cost Breakdown

These are the ten items I received in my share this week with the Stop and Shop prices listed:

1 lb. organic carrots: $1.29
2 lbs. cucumbers: $2.20
1 lb. organic tomatoes: $3.99
6 oz. grean beans: $1.50
1 head Boston lettuce: $1.99
1 bunch basil: $1.49
5 ears of corn: $2.00
1 lb. potatoes: $1.49
½ lb. green peppers: $.99
½ lb. onions: $.75

The grand total for these items at Stop and Shop was $17.69. My farm share cost for these items was $11.36. So the farm share cost $6.33 less even though all of the food from the farm was organic and most of the food from Stop and Shop was conventionally grown. If I had gone to a natural foods store, I probably would have found more organic items for comparison, but I’m sure the cost would have been even higher.

Occasionally there are a few items in my farm share that nobody in my house will eat. Fortunately, there is a “trade bin” where people can swap an item they don’t want for something they do want. If you’ve been putting off trying a CSA share, I encourage you to look into it. You can find a farm near you at Local Harvest. But I should mention that my farm isn’t even listed on that website. There are so many farms out there, and it’s worth looking to find one that is right for your family. Some shares include fruit and flowers, some shares involve pick-your-own, and some have great websites and blogs to help you use your produce. I was nervous to try it a few years back, but now I don’t know how I would live without it.

 csa vegetables

Update:  The number of weeks at my CSA can vary from year to year. This year’s summer share at my farm will actually last 21 weeks, not 22, so the weekly cost is $11.90.


  1. thanks for the breakdown, i just joined my local CSA and am picking up tomorrow…you just saved me some time!!

  2. My husband and I did a farm share in Dracut MA last season and it was fantastic! I never went to the store and compared prices but I definitely feel like it was worth it!

    1. I’m glad you had a good experience, Katy. There’s nothing like fresh produce right out of the ground.

  3. That’s so awesome that you can get it for $500. All the CSAs around here are twice that:(

  4. I was just telling my friend that I spend less money on food now that I have a CSA, mine is about $22 a week for 20 weeks, but it’s cheaper than getting the same food from the grocery store. She couldn’t believe it, even after I broke down the numbers! I’m glad to see other people are saving with CSAs too!

    1. That’s great! We have to get the word out, because I’m sure many other people would want a CSA if they knew they could save money that way.

  5. nice cost comparison! People don’t believe me when I say we save on our CSA, but we totally do. 🙂

  6. I like that you talked about the organic certification being expensive and some farmers just don’t go through the process. I think getting some knowledge directly from the farmer can be just as good as buying something “certified organic,” maybe even better! My uncles sold tomatoes that were pesticide free but not considered organic because of the type of fertilizer they used. It’s just regular fertilizer, and their tomatoes were the best! 🙂

    1. That’s interesting about the soil. I love being able to hear directly from the farmer about my vegetables – it beats produce with a sticker on it!

  7. VERY important message to get out there! Great post! Factual and brief, which is perfect for financial topics, IMO.

    1. Thank you so much, Karin! I hope we can spread the word about this and encourage more people to seek out a CSA.

  8. Great post! We had a wonderful CSA in Las Vegas called Bountiful Baskets, but I haven’t looked into it since we moved to Hawaii…will have to do that asap.

      1. It is sad, but when we were there two years ago, we couldn’t find much local food. We asked everywhere we went and the answer was always, we import our food. I hope the tide is changing in the islands like it is here on the mainland!

  9. I always wondered about the cost comparison! Like you, when I pre-paid in the Spring I wondered if it would be more expensive and by how much, so I am relieved to read this!

    1. Thanks, Sue! I hope you’re enjoying your farm share. It’s nice to know that it’s actually a bargain.

  10. This is a really important message that you’ve created! What thoughts to you have about getting this to a wider audience and especially those who are less likely to believe?

    1. Thank you so much, Tammy! I’ve had this post on my to-do list for months, and I’m glad to hear that you consider it important too. I would love to get the message to a wider audience because it would be great to see even more demand for farm shares around the country. I’m open to suggestions!

  11. I loved reading this. Thanks for sharing! I haven’t been able to find a local CSA, but we do have a farmer’s market so that’s a start!

    1. Thanks, Jill! Farmer’s markets are great, but they’re expensive in my area. At least you can pick out what you want there, though, and it’s a good way to support local farmers.

  12. Great post! I may have to do a cost breakdown like yours to convince my in-laws they should try joining one too. Thanks.

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