Can Joining a CSA be a Good Deal?

Moving to Rappahannock County forced us to answer the question: “Can joining a CSA be a Good Deal?” We had to consider food cost and quality, travel time and expense, diet and menu changes, and a host of other significant factors. In the end, our answer to the question was, “Yes.” But that ‘yes’ comes with interesting qualifiers. Let’s talk about what a CSA is and how joining one has helped us.

In early 2014, Blondie made it quite clear that we (mostly I) had a problem. Grocery shopping and provisioning our pantry at Serendipity Farmhouse was, to say the least, ‘inconvenient.’ She ended our conversation with her oft used words – “Fix it!!!” (See post Farmhouse in a Food Oasis for details.)

Those were my marching orders. That’s when I set off to find convenient, food sources here in Rappahannock County. Little did I know at the time that would lead me to a CSA named Waterpenny Farm. Ironically, it was just across US211, within walking distance of our farmhouse.

What’s a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a production and marketing model whereby consumers buy shares of a farm’s harvest in advance. In exchange for this, farmers commit to supplying sufficient quantity, quality, and variety of products. The consumers and farmers share the risks and benefits of food production.

If you’re interested in a how a CSA works, check out Waterpenny’s website here. Eric Plaksin and Rachel Bynum give a great rundown of how their CSA came to be and they highlight their service to the community. They also talk about pricing for shares and half shares, describing what products are available over the course of a season. – There’s a lot more to running a CSA than you might think, and Eric and Rachel provide many valuable insights.

SFH and Waterpenny – An Interesting Relationship

In a sense, CSA members support the CSA farm as if it were their own. And that means, through the lean years as well as through the good years. – And that’s been our relationship with Waterpenny Farm for the past 7-8 years. There are times when our half share overwhelms us, and we have to give away excess produce to our children and friends. There are other times when we wish the weather had been kinder to our CSA.

But here’s the secret to what makes the Serendipity Farmhouse – Waterpenny Farm relationship so worthwhile to us.

If you’ve read our posts, you know we grow our own herbs, and vegetables. We can or preserve most of what we grow.

We know we can’t grow everything we want or need. So, we stick to our favorites – tomatoes, okra, garlic, green beans, and hot peppers.

love your garden

Although our garden production overlaps with what Waterpenny provides us, Waterpenny grows a host of other products that are not within our capability to grow. – And when we’re one pound short of tomatoes for canning, Waterpenny always comes through.

The bottom line is, come canning season, we have everything we need. There are no trips to Walmart for veggies during the summer. – In essence, Waterpenny becomes a virtual extension of the vast 1.203-acre Serendipity Farmhouse Estate.

What does a half share look like?

I think you’ve got the picture now. By working with products from our CSA, we’ve managed to solve a large part of our original food procurement problem. In answer to the question “Can joining a CSA be a Good Deal?” The answer for us is ‘yes.’ As an illustration of that, here are two pictures showing our half shares from last week and the week before.

If there’s a downside to all this feast of plenty, it’s difficult to find. But when this much fresh food comes into our kitchen every Thursday, we have to plan meals to ensure nothing is wasted. It’s amazing how many innovative recipes we’ve developed to make the best use of this great bounty.

So, let me end with some pictures from our last visit to Waterpenny Farm. As we said in our last post, we live in a wonderful food oasis.

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