Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 11): End of Summer, but not an end to the boxes

It seems improbable that the summer has already come to an end – wasn’t it just May? Oh well. On the plus side, dd is now in school and thinks it’s brilliant. Even better, I now have a metric ton of sweet peppers to slice and send with her to school in her lunches. When I saw the list for this week’s veggie box contents, I turned to dh and said “WE ARE GETTING THIS BOX”. The thought of getting all those tomatoes and ears of corn just made my mouth water.

The loveliness of this end of summer bounty was filled with such color…and a bit of confusion for dh. While he was happy to see that a bunch of multi-colored radishes made its way into the box, he was confused by the darkest one, until I explained that I’d seen something just like it last week at the grocery store. I’d never seen a black radish before last weekend, and then here we were – presented with one in our veggie box! I’ll probably give it a shot, although I have to say that radishes typically just don’t do it for me. Ah well, you can’t win ’em all, right?

This week’s take:


Adventures in CSA year 2 week 11

Color, color everywhere!


  • Peaches
  • Arugula
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Corn
  • Large Cherry Tomatoes
  • Radishes
  • Squash


Half the corn already went towards dinner last night, and some of the cherry tomatoes made an EXCELLENT addition to my omelet this morning. Ah, if only I had some mozzarella in the house with which to make an arugula-tomato-mozzarella sandwich…well, that can be sorted out when I go to the grocery store later today.

I don’t have high hopes for the cost comparison, but anything’s possible. The box was fairly heavy as it was laden with so many yummy things, but items priced in bunches don’t typically cost a lot. Also, oddly, the peppers were short – we were supposed to get 2lbs (according to the slip left in the box after packing), but we only got just about 1-1/4lbs. Enh. I don’t think we’d know what to do with 2lbs of sweet peppers anyway. I’ll post how things went on the pricing in a day or so, after I’ve had a chance to toss everything into Excel. Yeah, I’m that kind of geek. But what else would you expect from someone who tracks the value of a veggie box over the course of a season? Honestly.

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 10): Holy savings, Batman!

When I first looked at my friend’s CSA box, I hadn’t expected there to be a ton of savings built in, since there wasn’t a ton in the box. Sure enough, there were 3lbs of heirloom tomatoes, but I hadn’t expected that they alone would be the “cost” of the entire CSA box! Just as a reminder, the program my friend is in works differently than the one I’ve been using; it’s more open-ended, in that you pay for a season and you keep reaping as long as there’s a season and stuff’s still growing. Mine is a week-by-week program, so there’s no up-front commitment. And, as my friend noted, if he picks his own, he gets substantially more than I saw in the “picked for me” box. So there’s that, too. In other words, if you’re interested in getting some serious value, going in on a program like this may be better – assuming you can absorb the up-front payment and don’t want/prefer to buy on a weekly basis.

For my part, having the flexibility of opting out of a given week’s box is a really fabulous thing, since some boxes have more or less of what I want. It’s also nice not having the pressure of trying to find someone else to pick up the veg if I’m not around, Lastly, I like fruit – and there’s no fruit in my friend’s program due to space constraints and such. I realize that some, like Tammy, don’t get fruit in their boxes (and she wishes she did!), but having had it last year…I’m spoiled used to it. I want my fruit, too. The big perk I wish my program had is the one my sister’s CSA (at yet another farm) has…a bin for trading items that you don’t want. It’s like a “leave a veg, take a veg” box. WANT. This would give me a place to put all those extra cukes without making so much tzatziki that we’re drowning in it. But I digress…

In other words, lots of pros on either side, and a few cons on each side (mine’s more expensive than his, but I get flexibility that he doesn’t have, etc.). What this does speak to is the incredible variation in programs in my area.

Here’s how things worked out for my friend’s box – going off a base of $13.89 assumed price per week, based on (approximately) 18 weeks in the $250 season:

Year 2 – Summer Week 10
Grocery Store Unit Price (per lb) Grocery Store Total Item Cost
Heirloom Tomatoes 3.45 $3.99 $13.75
Green Pepper 0.26 $1.49 $0.38
Eggplant 1.09 $1.49 $1.63
Jalapeno Peppers 0.13 $3.99 $0.53
Boston Lettuce (head) 1.00 $2.29 $2.29
Cherry Tomatoes (pint) 1.00 $3.99 $3.99
Grocery Store Total Cost $22.57
Year 2 Summer Week 10 Savings (Deficit) $8.68

If you live in Eastern Mass or Rhode Island, I can definitely say that it’s hard NOT to have access to a decent CSA. So, feel free to explore. If you’re not in this area and you don’t know where to go to get in on one, use the CSA locator on the Local Harvest web site and see what’s in your area. Clearly, it can be worth it. BIG TIME. And if you don’t have a CSA nearby, check your grocery store for signs that say “I’m Local!”. Even our local BJ’s clubs now carry local veg. This may not have the price savings built in, but it will help you get fresher items from local farms, and that’s pretty awesome all by itself.

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 10): TAKE THIS BOX

It’s not every day that someone asks you to take their veggies, but this very thing happened to me. Turns out that friends of ours were having their summer holiday…and that trip happened to overlap with their CSA pick-up day. So, I awoke one morning to a Facebook message from my friend, asking if I wanted their CSA box this week. Why, sure! It’s not every day that someone offers you fresh veggies for free!

The CSA they’re in is offered by our local YMCA, run in a community garden in the next town over from the Y. The CSA started in early July and will run through late October (or as far into November as the farm decides they can continue producing enough for the share). This CSA is a bit unique in that, unlike the one I’ve been purchasing week-by-week, you can either pick up your box or you can go out into the field and pick your own. With our hectic schedule, I can’t imagine trying to incorporate a “pick-your-own” scenario into a weekly veggie box program, but that’s just me.

(*my friend provided the following update just after I posted my blog entry originally, so here’s what he had to say, then we’ll resume the original entry…*)

“The actual farming is done by volunteers. In some cases, classes of kids come and learn about farming while they tend the farm. {Our dd} has learned so much from the program just picking. Not only does she recognize all the various veggies, but she also knows how to tell if things are ripe. Some veggies she just eats right off the plant, like purple string beans and cherry tomatoes…zero pesticides. I have to admit, they are pretty good.

I doubt they’ll ever have tree fruits, because most take so long to fruit and it may be difficult without the aid of pesticides. Plus, trees take up space. They also recycle the plots, so it’s unlikely they do perennials. Though some things like strawberries can be replanted every year. Because there’s so much turnover of the land, they’re going to be able to do things in the fall that they missed on in the cooler spring, like spinach…”

(*resume original entry*)

So, off I went to pick up the box, and this is what I found:

Adventures in CSA year 2 week 10 veggie box

Such prettiness!

  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Green Pepper
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Boston Lettuce
Adventures in CSA year 2 week 10 cherry tomatoes

So lovely and SO tasty

The price comparison on this one is a bit trickier, since the price is $250 for the entire program, and there’s a variable length issue. Assuming that the box program started in the first week of July, as I was told, and it runs through the end of October, that would mean approximately 18 weeks, which translates to $13.89/week. I’ll use that as my starting point for comparison, and we’ll see whether or not my friend’s veggie box is a good deal when you just do the pick-up option. He did ask me to send him a picture so that he could compare the volume you get when you pick up versus when you pick it yourself, and {update} his response was that you definitely get more when you pick at the farm instead of just picking up the box{/update}. Certainly, if you can stuff more in when you pick on your own, time-willing, that may be a really great option. I don’t have the time…but for those that do, it’s an interesting way to try to economize even further when buying local.

The only other funny thing about this veggie box is that it had no fruit in it! I found that rather interesting, since every other veggie box I’ve gotten has had something – berries, apples, etc. – SOME kind of fruit. This one was full-on veggie-only. Guess that means we’ll be off to the farmstand this weekend to restock our fruit supply…