Our Fresh Fork CSA Summer Share (technically for summer and fall) ended a few weeks ago.
I’ve now had some time now to process my thoughts on the program. I’d like to share what worked and didn’t work for us, to help you determine if the Fresh Fork CSA is right for you. The summer program lasts from June through October, which is 22 weeks. In addition to receiving vegetables and some fruit, members also receive occasional pantry items like grains, dairy and meat. Omnivore, vegetarian and vegan shares are available. Members can purchase a small or large share. We opted for the small share, which for two people was more than enough most weeks. Pickup locations are numerous across the greater metro Cleveland, Ohio-area.
- Pickup was quick and easy.
- Staff were friendly and accommodating to our needs, for example, during the week we received berries that we moldy, they were quick to replace them the next week with an extra item.
- For CSA subscribers there is an option to buy additional “ad hoc” produce and pantry items. I really enjoyed this feature and ordering your food was really easy to do online, just like an online grocery store. However, if you are not a weekly CSA subscriber you cannot take part in this.
- In general we loved the idea of a CSA, enjoyed trying new vegetables and felt more confident in our diet choices by eating locally produced foods.
- While we were asked to mention any food allergies when we filled out our application, that did not mean those foods were removed or replaced from our bag. Instead every time we had to ask that item be removed. On at least one occasion we forgot and were left with produce my husband is allergic to.
- Pickup locations are not in every city and suburb so you still probably have to drive to get to your nearest location. For us it was about 15 minutes, which is a time and gas money consideration to factor in.
- Cost. The small share averaged out to $115 per month every month from June through October. We keep a monthly grocery budget and quite frankly this blew the budget. We were struggling every month to buy our pantry staples outside of the CSA and not go over our budget for the month.
General CSA Thoughts (not specific to Fresh Fork)
- We received a lot of vegetables we either didn’t like (collard greens anyone?) or didn’t know how to use properly in the time frame they were fresh. Often within five to seven days certain produce items went bad and found themselves in the trash, much to my disappointment.
- A weekly CSA is time-intensive. I spent one to two hours every week cleaning, cutting and prepping vegetables after we received them. In addition, if I wanted to blanch and freeze vegetables that took extra time as well. For us this was a challenge being we both work. Maybe for a stay at home parent or work from home individual, this would be easier. For us it was always a rush to get the produce ready.
- My ideal CSA would allow us to select exactly what produce we wanted each week. Because of that we have decided that for 2013 we will not purchase a weekly CSA. Instead we are going to seek out local farmer’s markets and shop there so we can only buy the items we need and like.