Lower Your Food Bill and Eat Healthier: Join a CSA
Lots of our tenants have trouble paying their monthly bills, and unfortunately food costs are revving up to jump again this summer. We’re always interested in lowering our own costs, so we occasionally assign someone to look into money-saving tips we can share with our tenants. Every once in a while, we come up with something so valuable, we feel like we have to share it on our blog. Here goes: all about Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).
What’s a CSA?
The short version is that a CSA is an organization that has a direct relationship with one or more farms within a specific locality. They take your money — paid upfront, so you’re essentially investing in the harvest. Every contributor receives as many shares of the harvest as they paid for, so if it’s a bad year, you don’t get all that much. If they have a great year, you can be swimming in vegetables. Either way, your shares arrive in the form of weekly boxes of food delivered to your doorstep — your job is to figure out how to use them effectively.
The downsides are apparent: you are, to a degree, gambling that there won’t be a massive drought or other severe issue. You have to have all the money at once, up front, which can be difficult for paycheck-to-paycheck living. You’re also committing to eating whatever they give you, and while most CSA farms grow pretty standard fare, you might end up learning how to eat kohlrabi or something equally unusual. (That may be a benefit to some people; if that’s you, a CSA is even better for you than most!)
The upsides, while less obvious, are nonetheless quite significant. The first is that, in general, even a sub-standard year will end up giving you more vegetables than the same amount of money would buy you at the local supermarket. The second is that most CSAs grow organic, and all of them grow local — so the nutritional value of your food is meaningfully higher than the store-brought groceries. The last is that they (usually) deliver to your door. Anything that saves you gas and time can’t be underestimated. There are those CSAs that require you to go to a pick-up point to get your veggies, but they’re less common, and they make up for the effort by allowing you to pack your own boxes, giving you a degree of dietary customization.
How to Find a CSA
There are a few different good ways to find a CSA to sign up for. Ecovian has a good list of Detroit-area CSAs. If that doesn’t do it for you, you can always try Google. Those of you not interested in the Internet (how are you reading this again?), calling your local Chamber of Commerce can often get you the name of several of the larger CSAs in your area.
Is a CSA the right choice for everyone? Not at all — but for those of you who can afford the up-front payment, will enjoy the challenge, and are interested in some genuinely healthy, locally-grown food, participating in a CSA can save you money and improve your life in a single stroke, and that’s hard to argue against.