It always surprises me when people leave the CSA program for financial or budget reasons. Even with all of our farming challenges we haven’t raised our CSA box prices for 3 years. So I thought just for kicks and giggles I would go “shopping” this weekend for “the box” to see just how that might pan out – I looked at the price (of course!), the quality and quantity and also the availability. I went to a few places, of course I can’t name names but I went to a superstore kind of place that sells other things besides grocery and produce, a big chain “conventional” grocery store and a smaller type of neighborhood market store.
My superstore experience. Not super at all. So first off, I’m just trying to find produce grown in California – may not be local but at least it’s from the same state right? Everything is “packaged” neatly in plastic – yuck. What do all these labels mean?? Packed in the USA – does not mean it’s grown in the USA right – okay, so for me that’s a problem. Grown in USA, okay that’s better but for gosh sakes can you just tell me where. I’m Googling like crazy and I can’t get any answers. Some of the labels just had an address, what does that mean? Is it grown there, packed there, stored there? I have no idea. Then there are labeled things – from Argentina, China, Mexico – why? We live in one of the richest agricultural areas!
I decided to stick with the small box, less items but guess what? No fun stuff, just basic things – could only find white cauliflower, strawberries and lemon. Tried to find similar items and the price was still higher – $22.35 for a small box, but no locally grown produce, I couldn’t tell where the strawberries were from, looked like Watsonville, CA.
The conventional store. Similar to the superstore, however much better selection but no collard greens or Japanese turnips and I already was up to $24.11 for the large box. Most of the produce did not specify where it was grown or packed, except the blueberries which came from Argentina.
The smaller markets. First stop, the produce was all packaged in plastic for the most part and much of it was ready to cook. I don’t like buying produce in a bag, but I went through the exercise anyway. No Japanese turnips or round carrots but found similar items and I used those for comparison. Nothing with the greens attached so if you eat those too like I do, that’s an added value that many times you can’t get in a store. Without the turnips the large box came to $26.44.
Okay, so let’s review here, the produce is more expensive, I only saw a few farm names on anything but I don’t know where it was grown and it’s picked weeks before you buy it because it has to be processed, packaged and shipped to a distribution center THEN it gets shipped out to local stores (doesn’t last even when stored properly), and I can’t even buy some of things that we grow at the farm.
So if I’m trying to save money and eat right, why would I want to leave a CSA program and go back to buying food at a store? I’m just trying to understand here folks…..
And nothing in the store looked like this week’s box. So seriously members, pat yourselves on the back, you are eating local (keeping it real in the VC), you are eating fresher (um, picked one day, delivered the next), and you are saving $$$.