Sustainable Local Food On A Budget: CSA

Eating local, organic produce can really strain your budget.  Community Supported Agriculture schemes help save you time, while providing local, organic and sustainably produced food at a cost you can afford.

The grocery shopping dilemma

When I go grocery shopping, I find that I am faced with a daunting range of product diversity. Curious of what is actually in products, I find myself arduously studying ingredient lists to figure out which brand offers the more organic/cage free/humane option. Add this ingredient and label comparison to my budgetary concerns and what used to be a simple errand now leaves me standing in aisles for far more time than I wish to spend in a grocery store.

Several months ago I decided that I wanted to shop as organically and locally as possible. Living in San Francisco, one would expect this to be an easy task, what with farmers’ markets held throughout the week across the city. However, as a full-time university student who works part-time, I found it hard to make the time. Cost was also an issue, as all those gorgeous organic options can really add up.  And so I thought I’d give a CSA membership (Community Supported Agriculture) a try, and see what it was like to give the grocery store a break and have fresh, local produce delivered right to my door instead.

Farm Fresh To You

Farm Fresh To You (FFTY) is a CSA program which services the San Francisco Bay Area with produce from their farm in Capay Valley. FFTY offers home, restaurant, and business delivery as frequently as once a week or as infrequently as your needs may be. They offer a range of vegetable and fruit combination boxes to suit different lifestyles and food preferences.

For instance, recently I’ve tried to cut a lot of wheat and grain out of my diet which has led me to go through massive quantities of vegetables faster than I have time to shop for. Taking into account my dietary preference of vegetables I chose the More Mixed box for $44/box. The box is delivered every other week and I split the cost with my housemate.

After the first few weeks I found that the box lasts us a little under a week and a half. Making a small trip to the grocery store every other week for the essentials to last me until my next delivery has proven much easier on my schedule.

Eating seasonally

I am an avid cook and thoroughly enjoy reading what is going to be delivered to my door step when it is posted a week beforehand on the FFTY website. I’ve also become acquainted with eating things that are in season – rather than, for instance, eating tomatoes flown in from Chile – as well as vegetables that I would never think to try. The range of vegetables that arrives at my door challenges me to diversify my diet and my repertoire of recipes.

Every delivery includes a newsletter updating members on what is happening at the farm as well as two recipes that include a few of the ingredients in your box. This is very helpful when confronted with items like turnips, which I have never eaten nor given much thought to. All of their recipes are cataloged on their website which makes it useful when planning out meals that feature a certain vegetable or fruit that I have received.

Reducing rubbish

Another happy consequence of getting the majority of my produce through CSA program is that I generate much less produce packaging waste. All those horrid plastic clamshells, plastic bags and sticky adhesive labels can be avoided. The empty cardboard produce delivery box is left out on delivery day to be exchanged with my full produce box.

The healthy choice

Being presented with a giant box of fresh produce gets me excited about eating. Fresh produce is perishable, which encourages me to not let it go to waste – say, packing a mixed veggie quinoa salad instead of getting lunch from the taco truck on my break. This has led to a healthier lifestyle, an exciting challenge for me in the kitchen, and at last – an organic, fresh solution that I can afford.

Even if you are not a chef, FFTY offers boxes for a variety of needs, including snack packs on the go and veg that does not require cooking. For more information you can check out the Farm Fresh To You website or find a CSA membership that is local to you.

Resources to find a CSA near you


ACORN Canada
British Columbia CSA
CSA Ontario Directory
Equiterre Quebec CSA


EcoDirectory Australia
Food Connect Australia


Farm Locator Rodale Institute
Local and Regional Food Systems
Local Harvest

United Kingdom

Soil Association CSA UK

Learn more

Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet–All on $5 a Day or Less

Organic on a Budget

Organic Food: Eating Organic on a Budget

Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture, 2nd Edition

Farmer Jane: Women Changing The Way We Eat

The Farmer’s Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Your CSA and Farmers’ Market Foods

Shop for organic food online


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