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Lifestyler: Community Supported Agriculture Benefits Body and Budget

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Lauren_Fairbanks)
at 9:53AM Monday June 14, 2010
under Money Saving Tips

CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) have gained in popularity over the past few years as people have grown more aware of the benefits of fresh, organic produce and supporting local farms. It also hasn't hurt that many supermarkets and grocery stores are often times lacking in the fresh food department.
A CSA can provide many benefits to local communities and their citizens. Besides the obvious benefit of providing locals with locally grown food, it allows people to cook healthier meals and eat in-season which is both cost beneficial and ensures that your food will be fresher, since you aren't having to pay to have it shipped in from another part of the world.

The way it works is simple and Local Harvest (a website dedicated to small farms) explains it well: "a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box, bag or basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season."

Let's start off with finding a CSA in your neighborhood. Metropolitan areas have grown hip to the Community Supported Agriculture scene as of late and have responded by offering up a multitude of groups in each major city. New York City alone has seventy-seven. To find a CSA in your city or neighborhood, the most comprehensive listing is at Local Harvest. You can search easily by city and state, and while some states have fewer selections than others, if you're east of the Mississippi, you're pretty much guaranteed a CSA, fresh market or farm within a thirty minute drive.

Now, on to the financial benefits of participating in a CSA. Prices for a season vary with the type of share you receive (a full or half). Full shares typically feed an entire family of 4-5 people, while a half share provides enough for 1-2 people. Half shares typically average around $300-$350, while full shares can range between $500-$600 for a season, which lasts between 20-24 weeks.

It doesn't take a mathematician to see how huge the savings can be. Broken down, a single person could cut the majority of their grocery bill down to $17 a week, while families could pay around $30/week for the bulk of the grocery list. Once you have your fruit and vegetables as a staple, adding in a weekly bag of rice, pasta and bread is pretty cheap. You'll even have the cash to splurge on a cut of meat or fish with the money you've saved.

Not only do the perks of joining a CSA include healthier eating habits and supporting local agriculture, it's also a fantastic way to meet and socialize with your neighbors. With all of those pros to hopping on board the CSA train, it's about time to shred up that Kroger member rewards card and do something good for your waistband and your wallet.

Lauren Fairbanks is a Brooklyn-based writer hailing originally from that far away land known as the deep South. She has covered lifestyle, personal finance, career, and small business topics for various print and online publications including AOL, Wise Bread, Young Money, Learn Vest, She Knows, and Eating Well Magazine. She's also the Founder and Editor of LifeStyler - a guide to living in NYC on a budget.