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Everyday Cheapskate: Join a CSA for Your Health and Your Wealth

Mary Hunt on

The locally grown food movement has been gaining momentum. At the same time, the high cost of food is challenging all of us to find new ways to cut costs without sacrificing healthy eating.

Community Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs, are popping up all over the country. Through a CSA, consumers can choose to buy shares in a local farm and then receive portions of the farm's produce once it is harvested. In some areas, CSAs have become so popular there are waiting lists to join.

GO LOCAL

Food from CSAs has not been genetically altered, harvested prematurely or infused with chemicals to be able to withstand a 1,000-mile or longer journey from the farm to your table. Members of CSAs tend to eat seasonally. And they eat very fresh produce, which has been proven to be more nutritious.

HOW CSA WORKS

Members of CSAs pay dues, which buy shares of a farm. These dues go directly to pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment and labor. Then, the harvest is divided between shareholders. Cost of produce can vary widely from one CSA to another, depending on regional location and other factors.

 

COST VERSUS BENEFIT

Undoubtedly, it is cheaper to grow your own fruits and vegetables than to buy them at the grocery store. For example, one expert estimates that it costs about $3 for a tomato transplant that will produce up to 25 pounds of the summertime fruit favorite.

It doesn't get more local than growing produce in your backyard, but not everyone has the skills, expertise or resources to start a farm out back. Home gardening is not the only option for someone who wants to reap the benefits of eating locally produced food. Participating in a CSA can be a great solution.

By joining a CSA, you may not get a better price dollar for dollar, but it will undoubtedly prompt you to cook more often. Members tend to eat at home more because they are getting boxes of delicious, fresh produce every week.

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