Published Mar 6, 2015

Four (mostly) Acceptable Reasons Not to Sign up for a CSA (and how you can still support farmers)

By Liz Kolbe

If “Four Reasons NOT to Sign up for a CSA Share” didn’t apply to you… great! But what if you still don’t think a CSA is right for you? You might be right, and that might be ok. Below are a few scenarios that may apply to you, and I’ve offered a few tips on how you can still support your local farmers (ok, some of them still include buying a CSA share…).

  1. You grow too much food in your own garden.

This is a burden you bear every year. It is especially heavy in September. The joy, guilt, and panic of over-production. You probably have a few friends that love to get a few extra tomatoes or cucumbers and swear it is THE FLAVOR of Iowa in the summer… Tell them about the local farmers in your area from whom they can purchase great produce all spring, summer and fall – and even find local winter greens! You could also share recipes and tips with your friends and neighbors to help them feel more confident about using fresh produce. Don’t let your hard-earned knowledge go to waste!

One friendly tip – if you sell your produce as a hobby, avoid under-cutting prices at the farmers market. It might make you popular with some customers, but it doesn’t help build local farm businesses (it does the opposite, in fact). If you really need to unload a tub of cucumbers, consider donating them to a food bank or community kitchen.

  1. You travel too often during the summer.

A box of produce every week can be too much for some people, especially if you’re on vacation for two weeks. Still want to do a CSA? Find another family to share with and swap weekly pickups. Or shop around and find a CSA where you can customize your schedule a little bit. There’s a lot of options out there! And remember, there’s always the farmers market.

  1. You can’t afford to pay it up front.

If you have enough income to afford a one-time payment, it really helps the farmer get started on their early-season expenses. But if you can’t, most farmers will work with you to establish a payment plan that fits your budget. If it’s still too much (and for some it might be), farmers still love to see you (and your kids!) at their farm stands every weekend. Remember, most farmers markets now happily accept SNAP and WIC.

  1. You prefer shopping at the farmers market or your local coop.

This is the best excuse. If you’d rather load up your bags with vegetables while walking down Main St. on a Saturday morning (or Thursday afternoon or Monday evening, etc), you have my full support. But make sure you put your money where your mouth is: be there, and buy vegetables. Your best lip-service to shopping local doesn’t keep farmers in business. It’s easier for farmers (especially beginners) to plan for CSA sales, but supporting a variety of markets encourages retailers to purchase from local farmers, too. (If Hy-Vee or Fareway or Wheatsfield Co-op has local sweet potatoes – buy them!)

Bottom line: don’t despair. You can support local farmers and local food without buying a CSA share. If you need more advice than what I offered here, find a farmer! You can start here: Practical Farmers of Iowa Local Foods Page.