CSA vs. Farmers Market: Weeks 4 and 5

14 Jul

An interesting factor in the cost comparison between the CSA and farmers markets became apparent this week: the variability of supply and demand, and its effect on prices of items.

Just as the grocery store can adjust the costs of fruits and vegetables based on seasonality, crop availability, and transport milage; so can the farmer at the farmers market. For someone who shops with solely cost in mind and little interest in variety, this can be a good way to obtain a large volume of one or two types of vegetable fairly inexpensively. However, for someone who doesn’t relish the idea of eating the same item for a week’s duration (or someone who lacks an extra freezer to take advantage and stock up for winter!), it can push the farmer’s market into pricey territory.

For example, our farmers market is currently bursting at the seams with zucchini. It’s a good time of year for zucchini, when they ripen in droves. Nearly every stall has them 2 or 3 for $1. If I were willing to eat zucchini every day for a week, and forget the slightly-too-early-in-the-season tomatoes priced at 2 for $3 or the end-of-crop sweet cherries at $4 a pint;  I theoretically could purchase seven days worth of fresh produce for around $2. But who wants to eat that much zucchini? (Steven already has had enough from the first time around!)

This is where I see the farmers market losing ground to the CSA. With the CSA, we have purchased a share in the farm’s yield; so as the farm’s yield grows mid-season, ours follows suit. The particular CSA that we belong to promises at least eight items per week; their website states that at times of low production they “supplement” with fresh eggs, homemade jams and local honey to reach that eight item per crate mark. Likewise, when the farm is producing well, each crate is apt to have above and beyond that number. The one thing that does not fluctuate is our price, which is locked in at $23.63 per delivery. Some weeks it may be stretching it to say that the CSA is a deal, but other weeks (like this week) it feels almost like stealing.

In this week’s disbursement we received:

  • 1 pint of red raspberries
  • 4 huge perfectly ripe peaches
  • 2 sweet onions with greens attached
  • 2 bunches of green onions (5 onions per bunch)
  • 2 stalks of green garlic
  • 1 pound of green beans
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 pound of radishes with tops
  • 1 pound of fresh basil
Adding up estimated grocery store value, the gain far outweighs the price paid. It definitely is a much more interesting and varied haul than that of our take at the farmers market last week (3 zucchini, 3 cucumbers, 2 tomatoes and a pint of cherries costing a total of $9). Though with a Southern boy in the house, those four peaches aren’t going to be around very long.
Now I need to start researching uses for basil that extend beyond pesto and Caprese salad. Does anyone have a good basil recipe to share?

One Response to “CSA vs. Farmers Market: Weeks 4 and 5”


  1. CSA: Week 7 « The Grocery Project - 07/31/2011

    […] week, however, was our CSA pickup. As you may remember, our last disbursement was chockfull of a wide variety of delicious produce. Due to our small, sporadic meals over the […]

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