Friday, January 4, 2013

Western Mass CSA: Introduction

As a relatively recent new resident of Western Massachussett's bucolic Pioneer Valley, I am very happy with all of the great agricultural options that are available near by, especially compared to Boston, where I was born and raised.  There are tons of local farmstands and it is not at all uncommon to drive by a farm.  I have always been fascinated by CSAs, which is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture.  It's basically a pre-paid subscription to a delivery of vegetables from a specific farm.  You put up support, often before the planting even occurs, then you reap the benefits of the harvest.  The benefit to the farm is that they are secured funding and customers, and the benefit to you is you are guaranteed whatever food is produced at the farm that summer.

Some of the things that are attractive to me, are that I would be supporting a local farm.  This is good, because local food is often fresher and certainly greener.  I will not be contributing as much to the pollution associated with full size agricultural operations or the transport of the food to my local market.  It will force me to eat more vegetables, which have a lower environmental impact than meat does.  They are also likely healthier, which supports a secondary goal of improving my health.  Finally, it will force me to be creative, as CSAs are known for sending all kinds of oddball veggies in their assorted weekly pickups.  I am struggling to become a decent cook, and one of my trends is that I tend to buy and cook the same things all the time, hopefully the CSA veggies will force me to do otherwise.

Downsides are the big upfront cost, probably in the $600 range.  This is a lot of money for me, but if I break it down into 20 weeks of vegetables, its only $30/week, not too crazy.  I fear that at times I will need to augment my CSA veggies with others to make some of the dishes that I plan, but hopefully that will not run more than an additional $10/week.  If i budget out $60 a week in meat/cheese/other veggies, I should be able to achieve a $100/week food budget, which would be great.  On the other hand, I could take the $40/week and go to a local farmers market or Whole Foods, I would be paying more per item, but I would have greater choice over my elections.  Also, I am only cooking for myself and my wife, hopefully this will not be way too many veggies for me and her, as she is already not the biggest vegetable fan to begin with!  Finally, I need to be able to pick up on my schedule, which is often quite busy during the week's business hours. 

In my next post, I will compare the various CSAs available here in Western Mass, and make a decision based on the various factors that are valuable to me.