What is a CSA share really worth? There many different ways to talk about value. Some values are more tangible than others. Without getting into a lengthy discussion, I’d like to first mention some of the less tangible or measurable values that we offer. We put a tremendous amount of effort and skill into making the best CSA shares we can every week. That effort and commitment over these many years has value. Here are some others:
- Making a connection with a local farm and local farmers – the real people who bring this food to you every week.
- Receiving a beautiful box of vibrantly fresh local produce.
- Receiving produce that is fresher, tastier, or more interesting than is available elsewhere in the general marketplace.
- Supporting a small farm that strives to steward the land, invests heavily in taking care of the soil, water, and local creatures.
- Receiving a weekly newsletter with farm news and recipes.
- Convenience of a pre-packed box vs. gathering produce at the store or farmer’s market.
While we have chosen to dedicate our lives to doing the best job we can farming and furthering the above-mentioned values, over the years we have also been curious about how we are doing in more measurable ways. Our main question was: If you went to buy the contents of the average CSA share at your local co-op or farmer’s market, how much would it cost? Over the years we have done numerous individual box comparisons and all of our investigations led us to feel secure that we were offering a good dollars and cents value each week. Then in 2010 we did a more serious full season study.
We had always been a little reluctant to make comparisons with store pricing because we believe our produce is so much better in a variety of ways. First its fresher – our produce comes to you as soon as we can pick it, wash it, and drive it to your neighborhood. Store produce, because of the nature of the multiple stage process it must go through, even here in California, has been picked a minimum of several days and up to a couple of weeks before you see it. Second, our produce has been selected and grown with more care because we are growing at such a small scale. We trial and grow the best tasting varieties we can find. We carefully inspect and wash everything that goes into the boxes. And we put a tremendous amount of care and love into the whole process. Having said all that we still wanted to know how we stand on a pure market comparison. What we found was very encouraging. If you bought our boxes at the farmers market OR the natural foods stores (the pricing turned out to be surprisingly similar – some things a little more, some a little less), on average you would have paid $30 per week– By being a CSA member in 2010, you saved $7 per week or $168 over the course of the 24 week season. In 2011 our harvests were more abundant than in 2010 and we also raised the share price by $1.75 to $24.75/week (NOTE: most CSAs charge $27 or more/week. Truckee/Tahoe members pay $3 extra per box for delivery ). Savings in 2011 were still over $150 for the season. These numbers did not include the free choice items that are available some of the time to veggie share members.
While these results make us happy, we remain firm in our conviction that the many other values that you receive as CSA members are just as important. This price comparison helps support our claims that we’re on the right track and offering a good service to our community. Thank you for making the choice to join our CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture – and it is just that: we need your support to continue to do what we do. We hope that you are well nourished in return.