Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about how we’ve evolved in our cooking and shopping habits since combining our kitchens, and how we save money at the supermarket in order to have more to spend on delicious little splurges. But there’s one other major way that we both save money on food and splurge for the very best: our membership in a CSA.
CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a brilliant business model for small farms to support the communities that exist in the areas surrounding the farmland. There’s been risk involved with farming since the first farmer planted the first seed, but CSA removes some of the risks from farming by allowing the people who eat the food to purchase it before it’s grown. (I did say it was brilliant!)
Our local farm is Simpaug Farms in Suffield, Connecticut. Nestled on 250 acres – that’s a bit less than half of a square mile – the folks who run the farm use sustainable practices that preserve the land the generations to come, they produce fruits and vegetables free from synthetic pesticides, and they raise animals without hormones or antibiotics. They plant a broad array of fruits and vegetables that come into peak ripeness throughout the season, ensuring both variety and abundance for members.
We joined the Simpaug Farms CSA back in April, by filling out a form online and making a payment of $800. In return, starting on June 19 and running for the next 20 weeks, we will collect a crate of 10 to 14 different fruits and vegetables, and a carton of a dozen eggs. That works to roughly $35 per week for produce and $5 per week for eggs – all of it local, natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and chosen just for us at the peak of fresh deliciousness. (For comparison, at the grocery store yesterday we spent $26 for half that volume of fruits and vegetables from at least several hundred miles away, and $5.99 for a dozen similarly raised eggs.)
This is clearly a wonderful partnership for me and Clay, but it’s just as wonderful for the farm. I met Megan and Max, who run the business-side of Simpaug Farms, at the Fairfield Farmer’s Market this morning. Max’s answer to my question “So how does having the CSA help the farm?“ is excerpted below.
The biggest form of help from the CSA is being able to plan better. Today, which is just a day at the Farmer’s Market, started at 5am. We drove from the office in Ridgefield to the farm in Suffield, collected all of the produce from yesterday’s harvest, drove to Fairfield and set up the market, are working here to sell everything we can (and hoping we guessed right on what to bring), and later we’ll drive back to the farm to drop off anything we don’t sell so it can be put to use.
With the CSA, we know in advance how many people will collect their shares from each location, so know just how much to pack and deliver. But when CSA members purchase shares early in the season, we can plan just how much of a crop to plant because we can adjust for our market. Since the biggest costs in farming come early in the season with seeds and equipment, it’s really helpful to have the capital for that up front, too.
There are still shares available for the Simpaug Farms CSA, and the first pickups for the season start on June 19. Join us in supporting a fabulous small farm, and in eating well all season!
P.S. If you want to get to know a little more about the farm and the CSA, their pinterest boards are full of recipes and tips for preparing fresh summer vegetables, and their YouTube channel has some good videos, too.