One of the biggest money savers Rick and I did last year was joining a local CSA farm. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture (see my March 2008 post, “CSA – And it Tastes Good Too” for more info on how CSA’s work and where to find one in your area). Like buying your meat in bulk or using cloth diapers, the upfront cost of a CSA membership is a lot to shell out at once, but the savings over time is incredible!
At Monroe’s farm (the CSA we belong to) the fee is split into two parts: a Membership fee, which is set for all members, though it is reduced if you chose to be a working member; and a Produce fee, which is based on the size of share you are purchasing (single, half or full).
When we joined Monroe in 2008, we signed up for a working membership. To figure out if this would be worth wile for us, we sat down with our grocery store receipts from the months past, and added up just what we spent on produce alone. Then we figured out the mileage to drive to Monroe in Kersey, CO once a week, and what that would cost us in gas. The fuel costs combined with the membership & produce fees from Monroe were still FAR, and I mean FAR, less than what we’d been paying at the grocery store for often times non-organic, shipped across the country, under ripe produce for the previous summer.
About a week after we signed up (before things were really started for members on the farm), I got a call from another member who also lived South of Denver and was interested in car-pooling to the farm each week. That meant our fuel cost was cut in half from what we calculated it would be.
For the whole summer’s worth of produce, including fuel costs, this is what we spent in 2008 (when gas prices were through the roof, remember??). And, it should be noted that we froze, stored and canned some of this produce and have been eating it all winter too (we still have onions, tomatoes, potatoes, green chiles and corn)!
Membership Fee (working member): $100
Produce Fee (half share): $135
Fuel (we got aprox. 20 miles/gallon): $497.07/2 = $248.54
Total for the summer: $483.54
That amount divided by the number of weeks we received produce from the farm (approx. 24) is $20.14/week on about 20-25lbs of local, fresh, organic produce. This does not count the 2 flats of strawberries, asparagus, and 4 bushels of roasted green chiles which were “pick your own” that I brought home in addition to the share, or factor in all the stuff we stock-piled for the winter.
You have to remember that this number could change based on how far you drive to the farm (assuming you’re a working member), car pooling with more or less people, fuel costs, and how bountiful the harvest is. Or, it could change if you are a non-working member as well.
The produce is so incredibly fresh. As in, picked just that morning! The half share was plenty for our family. We ate most of it in a week, and were able to store what was left. However, for 2009, we uped our share to a full size with plans to store/can/freeze much of the excess in order to ensure our grocery bills for winter produce are further reduced.
It should also be said, that we got a lot more out of the CSA last year then produce as well. We made new friends, Rick has a new hunting partner, Henry got to play in the dirt all summer, eat melons warm from the sun, pick strawberries… it was very very cool.