Is a CSA right for you? 5 things to consider

March 7, 2023
Box filled with fruits and vegetables

This post is sponsored by Untiedt's Vegetable Farm, Inc.  I've been an Untiedt's CSA member since their first CSA season in 2011, and I'm excited to be working with them to promote their CSA program.  You can learn more and read their frequently asked questions page on Untiedt's website.  As always, all content and opinions are my own.

I love my CSA—I've been a member of Untiedt's CSA since 2011, and the 17 week CSA season is one of highlights of my summer and fall.  However, CSA membership isn't a fit for everyone—here are some questions to ask yourself to decide if joining a CSA is right for you.

Do you want to eat vegetables?

It's an obvious question, but an important one—how many vegetables do you really want to eat?  Many of us are familiar with the concept of "aspirational vegetables" that we buy with the best of intentions at the grocery store, only to let them wilt in the refrigerator.  A CSA is a season-long commitment, so before signing up, be honest with yourself about how much produce you're realistically going to be eating. 

For me, eating a lot of vegetables is a huge benefit of CSA membership, and getting into the habit of eating vegetables during CSA season has helped me eat more produce all year long.  If you haven't done a CSA before, Untiedt's mini share is a good way to start—it includes 5-8 different produce items each week, and is sized to feed 1-2 people.

Rotini pasta with zucchini and tomatoes

How will a CSA pickup fit into your schedule?

As I mentioned above, a CSA is a season-long commitment, and you'll need to pick up your share each week.  Put some thought into how that will fit into your schedule: do you have time to pick up your share before or after work, or can you combine it with another errand?  Is the pickup location close to your house, school, or workplace?  What other commitments do you have on CSA pick up day?  In addition to picking up your produce, remember that you may need to allot some time to washing it when you get home (it's coming directly from the farm). 

One of my favorite things about Untiedt's CSA is how many pick up locations they have: over 40 spots throughout the Twin Cities metro, including their farm stands, the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Kowalski's grocery stores, co-ops, garden centers, and more.  I use an Untiedt's farm stand pick up location that's a 15-minute drive from my house, and if I'm not going to be able to make it there due to a work commitment, it's easy to switch to another location via the online member portal.

Plate with hummus, carrots, and blistered shishito peppers

How many meals do you cook (or want to cook) at home each week?

Although some of your CSA produce can be enjoyed with minimal preparation, most of it will need to be cooked and incorporated into your meals.  Think about about how many meals you currently cook per week, and how a box of CSA produce would fit into that. 

It's fine if you don't already prepare a lot of meals—a CSA can be great motivation to try new recipes and get excited about cooking.  However, you should consider how cooking will fit into your schedule.  If you want to cook a few times per week, Untiedt's mini share is a good option.  If you'd like to cook several meals per week, the family share might be right for you. 

For reference, we're a household of two and get a family share because we cook 5-6 dinners each week and typically eat leftovers for lunch.

Lettuce salad topped with vegetables and chickpeas

How do you feel about meal planning?

If you want to eat all the produce in your CSA share, I've found that meal planning is essential—it's tricky to eat your way through several different types of vegetables each week if you're winging it every night at dinnertime.   It's also helpful if you're willing to try new recipes and different ways to prepare produce.  If you're not someone who wants to cook from recipes, consider using meal templates—that's how I make meal planning easy when I don't want to track down a specific recipe.

Untiedt's sends a weekly "sneak peek" email each Saturday morning, giving you an idea of what to expect in Tuesday's share so that you can get your grocery shopping done over the weekend.  Their member newsletter also includes recipes and meal planning ideas, which are especially helpful if you're new to a CSA and/or meal planning.

Large baking sheet with produce arranged on it

Can you deal with a little uncertainty?

Your CSA farmer will do the very best they can to get you a variety of tasty fruits and vegetables each week, but ultimately, farming is dependent on the weather—it might be a bad year for apples or a bumper year for tomatoes.  Crops might ripen sooner or later than expected due to growing conditions, and hot weather might make it difficult to deliver delicate produce like strawberries in perfect condition. When you sign up for a CSA, you're agreeing to share a portion of the risk inherent to farming, as well as a share of the bounty.

I've been very satisfied with the variety and quality of produce that Untiedt's CSA has provided over the years.  Sure, there have been times where I've been disappointed to not get as much of a particular item as I had hoped, but those instances have been outnumbered by the joy of discovering a new-to-me vegetable or getting an extra week of sweet corn.  Communication from the farm is open and honest about any issues that may come up, and I like supporting a local farmer, even if it's a very small way.

Ready to join the CSA program from Untiedt's Vegetable Farm?  Family and mini shares are available on the Untiedt's website.  Payment plans are available for all shares purchased prior to April 1, 2023.

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Box of produce with text reading "Is a CSA right for you? 5 things to consider"