We've been really happy with our CSA and I'm glad we decided to go for it! Our CSA is through a local farm, Little Eorthe. There are quite a few farms that do CSA shares here in the Northwest, so we had a few options, but we had friends who had a share with Little Eorthe last year so we decided to go with them. We had initially wanted to get the full share, which includes everything from meat to eggs to produce, but we couldn't afford it when we paid for our share back in the springtime, so we opted for a half share of produce and a half share of eggs. I believe the total for that came to $460, and we pick up produce and eggs every other week from June through October. The full share was $1200 and you pick up every week, instead of every other week. I'm so glad we didn't end up getting the full share. We can barely make it through all of our produce before the next pick up day two weeks later. They fill about 4 big tote bags full of produce and when we get home and put it all in our fridge it's pretty much stuffed with veggies! Since Little Eorthe does just a summer/fall CSA season, I'm not sure what we'll do for the winter months. Our friends who introduced us to Little Eorthe used Terra Organics during the off-season, so we may look into that as an option.
There are some weird things that come in a CSA, and a lot of things I'd never pick up at a grocery store. Dragon Tongue beans, Collard Greens, Purple Basil, Beets, Bok Choi, etc. In order to cook everything I often find myself googling recipes for ingredients I'd never used before, but it's fun to learn new things and try new foods. I'm pretty sure I'd never eaten collard greens before our CSA and I'd certainly never cooked them. I've never even seen or heard of a dragon tongue bean before our CSA! It's definitely a ton of veggies, which, if you're not used to eating a lot of veggies can be hard. Some weeks we end up with a few rotten veggies we didn't end up consuming, but most weeks we try our best to make it through everything.
We didn't get a meat share in our CSA, since we don't eat a lot of meat anyway. We've found that we can just pick some up at the farmer's market when we go to get our CSA if we want some that week. Plus, then it's local meat, which is something I think is important. When I decided to try eating less meat, I also decided that if I did eat meat I wanted it to be locally raised, if possible. The farmer's market is a great place to find that, and I love being able to support a local farmer instead of whatever giant corporation makes the meat in the regular grocery store.
But all of that aside, one of my favorite things about our CSA is the community it creates. We know the person who grew all that food. We know about how her week was, we know that their apple tree just had it's first harvest of apples after being planted four years ago. She emails weekly letting us know how things are going, not just around the farm, but in their lives, and what produce we'll be receiving that weekend. She sends recipes along with the list of what we got that week, so we can know how to use some of the more obscure or abundant veggies. It's great to know that my investment is going directly to a person I know, and I would be more than welcome to go to the farm to visit and see how everything is grown, how they raise their animals, etc. In October Little Eorthe has a Harvest Celebration and they invite all the shareholders out to the farm for a potluck and to see the farm, so I'm really looking forward to going out there and actually seeing the farm where all my food came from!
A good way to find a CSA program in your area is to either go to your local farmer's market and ask the produce vendors if they have a CSA option, or google it! Some of our local livestock farmers even have meat shares that you can sign up for! In addition to our CSA Dan and I also signed up for a local milk delivery service from Smith Brother's Farm, so on top of the CSA we also get milk, eggs and butter delivered every other week. They also deliver bread, yogurt, cheese and more, so if we wanted we could have that delivered too! There's no delivery charge if your order is more than $10, so it's pretty much the same as going to the store, except it shows up on our doorstep!
Some CSA's go year round, but ours is just a summer/fall seasonal one. Paying for months of produce up front can be a bit expensive, so saving up in advance is a good idea, and I think some farms would let you work out a payment plan if you talked to them. The amount of produce we get is kind of ridiculous, I'm always amazed at how heavy my bags are when I'm carting them home. Who knew vegetables could be so heavy? I would definitely recommend at least trying out a CSA, if you're interested in getting fresh, local produce (and meat, eggs, or milk!). It's been a blast and we're absolutely going to do it next summer.