Why I don’t recommend CSAs for the organizationally challenged

Two years ago right around this time I was bursting with enthusiasm for my budding skills as a weeknight chef.

One of the side effects of my goal to get a healthy homemade dinner on the table each night was that I became increasingly aware of, if not downright alarmed by, the toxins in so many of the foods we consumed.

My Crunchy Evolution

I became a label-reader. I made the shift to organic wherever I could. I stopped buying anything with corn or soy in it because of the high likelihood the corn or soy was genetically modified (or as my oldest likes to say, “dramatically modified”). I started shopping for produce and eggs at the local farmer’s market. I even went so far as to make my own ghee.

In short, I went from pretty laissez-faire about our food to totally crunchy in about six months. Strange for someone who had always been a bit of a ne’er-do-well when it came to food. (I like my sugar. And my meat.)

Based on my granola progression, I suppose it’s not terribly surprising that i signed up for a summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share program in my area. I paid $400 in late winter/early spring to ensure that I’d get a box of fresh, locally produced organic veggies delivered right to my doorstep once a week. I loved the idea that we were helping mitigate a local farmer’s risk and the idea that I’d cut down on my shopping needs as well.

The Realities of a CSA

Cut to June. My first box arrived and I felt like a kid at Christmas. I ripped it open and smiled at the mustard greens, rainbow chard, and other lovely green things staring back at me.

But it was a different story by the end of summer.

My veggie bin quickly became an overstuffed disaster — filled to the brim with wilting greens and random items (daikon radish?) I had no idea how to prepare. My family was starting a full-fledged revolt against all the kale. And I felt incredibly guilty because each week I was throwing out more and more produce that had passed its prime.

But probably worst of all, because I was never sure what would be in my farm share box until it arrived on a Tuesday morning, I was paralyzed when it came to menu planning. Because I work, I have always liked to do my menu organization on Saturday mornings and then shop between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening. The Tuesday delivery threw a monkey wrench in that habit, and I couldn’t ever seem to get back on track. Once I became paralyzed on that front, I backslid into unhealthier dinner habits (ahem, pizza delivery!).

And believe it or not, when I fell off the dinner-making routine, my house got messier too. It’s like that was a lynchpin to keeping me going in the right direction.

I have never been so happy for a program to come to an end.

It pains me to say that! But it is true.

To this day, whenever any of my boot camp clients ask me about farm shares, my advice is usually to skip it. They are wonderful in theory – and probably perfect for the woman who is a MacGuyver in the kitchen. But if you’re already struggling to stay organized or manage your time more effectively, a box of surprise veggies, delivered on a day that may not be optimal for you, will throw off your routines. And once you’re off your routine…well, the slide into chaos isn’t far behind.

In the end, it’s less expensive and more efficient for me to shop for the items on my weekly menu plan at the local farmer’s market. So that’s how I support local organic agriculture.

Is this true for you too? Or am I being too harsh? If you’ve ever signed up for a CSA, I’d love to hear from you!