CSA STANDS FOR Community Supported Agriculture. You pay a farmer a flat fee up front in the spring. In return, you receive a weekly share of the farm’s crop throughout the summer and fall. If CSAs are offered in your area, you should buy one. Here’s why:

1. It saves you money in the long run.

CSAs usually cost between $300-$500 for a family of 4 and span a period of 20 weeks (more or less depending on a location’s growing season).

The cost might seem a little daunting up-front (tip: split it between roommates), but by the end of the season you will have received pounds and pounds of organic produce without the grocery store’s retail markup.

2. The food is better quality.

When you buy a tomato at the grocery store, it has most likely been grown thousands of miles away, picked before it was ready, ripened with chemicals, trucked across the county, and unloaded onto a display where maybe hundreds of sick children (exaggeration) have touched it with their booger-encrusted fingers.

When you buy a tomato directly from a farmer, it has been allowed to grow and flourish on the vine before being proudly picked and placed in your CSA box. And (bonus!) it actually tastes like a tomato. Not like a dirty piece of sponge.

3. CSAs teach you patience.

You know when it’s January and they have random sales on strawberries at the grocery store? So you buy 2 boxes for 5 bucks. And then you eat one in the car and even though it looks like a strawberry and feels like a strawberry, it tastes like a moustache-and-fedora-wearing imposter of a strawberry? That’s because you bought strawberries in January. Strawberry season is in July.

4. You’ll have to learn tons of different ways to make food last.

At the beginning of your CSA, you might get your first few boxes and think, “I’ve been hustled by a man in Carhartt overalls.” Your box might only contain a small bunch of radishes and some random herbs you don’t want (thyme). And you might be angry. But that will pass.

By the height of the season, you’ll barely be able to carry your box and there will be no way in hell you’re going to eat all the veggies it contains in a week. That’s when you’ll realize you can pickle / can / ferment / make a wreath out of pretty much anything.

5. CSAs are economically and environmentally conscious.

They support a need-based economy rather than a profit-based economy, meaning your contribution supports the small-scale needs of the consumer, the farmer, and the land. Plus, local produce hasn’t been trucked here from the opposite side of the country, in the back of an 18-wheeler, just so you can make 7-layer dip for Superbowl Sunday.

6. Your money is going directly into the hands of a fellow community member.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

7. CSAs offer the opportunity to experience a lifestyle you might not be familiar with.

If you work a 9-to-5 in the city, it’s possible you’ve never commingled with a farmer before. And farmers are excellent people to hang out with. (They love animals. They’re usually tan. They eat things like “salad turnips.”)

So are 9-to-5ers (They’re always well-dressed. They know where all the great Happy Hours are. They say things like, “Let’s circle up.”)

I think you guys should meet. There’s some potential steamy chemistry here. (Actually interested? FarmersOnly.com)

8. Small-scale farming needs your help.

In 1935, there was a peak of 6.8 million farms in the United States. According to the 2007 census, there are only 2.2 million farms today. Even though the amount of farmers has severely decreased, the demand for agricultural products is constantly increasing.

The majority of farmers today are machines. Not the guy pushing a free carrot sample on you at the farmer’s market, though. He’s a real human being.

9. You are forced to eat healthier.

When you have umpteen million beets to deal with, you can’t go to the 24-hour gas station and buy one Klondike Bar for every episode of Dexter you have left.

Because you already bought the beets so…you can’t do that anymore.

10. Picking up your CSA is a social endeavor.

Usually, pickup locations are at community centers, parks, or general stores. You’ll get to meet people who are out of your usual circle. And you can chat with them about organic sausage recipes. Your other friends won’t talk to you about organic sausage recipes!

11. You will eat vegetables you would normally sneer at.

Radishes. Am I right? Why do those exist? But put a slice of raw radish on a crostini with butter. I think you’ll lose the ‘tude.

12. You’ll feel better.

You really will. I promise.

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