Buying and eating locally have many benefits. In addition to supporting small businesses and farmers, shopping locally is also a great way to get fresh vegetables and produce for your family. While we know that local produce is our best option, it is not always easy to find the time to go to local farms or shop on the days that your area has farmers markets. 

CSAs change all this. These organizations stock up on local produce, support local farms, and make it easy for anyone to purchase. Crème de la Crème of Peoria wants to help you get fresh produce, meat, and eggs for your family, so we’ve put together a guide to finding CSA boxes in the area.

CSA Boxes Explained

A box full of fresh local vegetables and bright red strawberries.

Image via Flickr by Darius

The term CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. A CSA box is simply a monthly subscription to become a member, and then you get to receive a weekly share of food from either one farm or a group of farms in your region. Subscribing to a CSA box not only provides a way for you to support your local agriculture, but it also ensures that you get fresh produce every week. Many CSAs set up community locations each week where you can go to pick up your box.

The Benefits of Joining a CSA

You enjoy many benefits when you join a CSA. Although it is a commitment, many families find that it is an inexpensive way to ensure that they always have fresh produce. Here are some of the advantages of joining a CSA:

  • You support one or more local farms and take out the middleman. CSA boxes help provide financial security to farmers. Most CSA boxes get all their produce from one farm, and there is often an option to buy extra shares if you also want to get eggs or meat. 
  • The food is always fresh. The produce you receive from a CSA is usually harvested within a couple of days or even hours of pickup or delivery, so it keeps its nutritional value and stays fresher for longer. 
  • You know where your food comes from. In many cases, the CSA will organize a trip to the principle farm so you can see the operation and meet the owners and staff. 
  • It’s Inexpensive. The cost of the shares of produce depends on where you are located, but it usually works out to less than $20 a week. 
  • It’s seasonal and environmental. Joining a CSA means you’ll get seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are most likely picked at the peak of their ripeness. It is also better for the environment to buy local because it imposes a lower carbon footprint when there is no shipping product thousands of miles away.
  • It provides a sense of community. Many CSAs ask for you to volunteer. The time you spend working for the CSA allows you to meet other members, and it can even be a learning experience for the kids.

How Do I Find A CSA?

Once you have considered the pros and cons of CSAs and make the decision to join one, it’s time to start searching your area for one that works for you. Several websites list CSAs, and you can locate one by searching for your ZIP code or town. It will provide information such as what farms are a part of it, the pickup site, and the time window. You can look through the list to find one with a schedule and location that fits your needs. Some of the websites you can use include:

  • Local Harvest: This website makes it very easy to find a CSA box in your area. You can search by city or ZIP code to see which ones serve your area. The site also gives information about the farm, the services, and where they provide the nearest drop. 
  • Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA): You can also find local CSAs using the USDA website. Search by ZIP code to find one in or near Peoria and find out what product they offer and what type of payments they accept. 

What Should I Consider When Shopping For a CSA?

When deciding which CSA to join, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • The size and price. Make sure to consider how many people the box will feed. Do you need enough for one or two, or are you feeding a hungry group of kids? Talk to the farmer about the size of a typical share to make sure it fits your needs.
  • Pickup or delivery days. Will you have to go to the farm to pick up your box? If so, how far away is it? Find out if the CSA has a local drop location and where it’s located. Easy access to your box could be a significant factor in which one you choose.
  • Is it organic? If organic food is important to you, find out if the farm is certified organic. Talk to the farmer about their growing practices to make sure their philosophy matches yours. 
  • Where does the food come from? Some CSAs get the food from one farm, while others supplement with other sources. If you are concerned about getting seasonal produce only from your local farm, then check to make sure the additional sources are also local. 

Some Local Peoria CSAs Worth Checking Out

Consider checking out these local Peoria CSAs: 

  • Blue Sky Organic Farms: Blue Sky Organic Farms is a family-owned and -operated farm. It is certified organic with a focus on vegetable production and using non-GMO seeds. This farm offers several options for pickup, including at Beth El Congregation, Blue Sky Organic Farm Store, and the Gilbert Farmer’s Market.
  • Farmyard: Farmyard in Phoenix is an urban microfarm that specializes in vegetables and herbs. They use organic growing practices and local compost, and all their seeds are certified organic. They sell their produce and eggs through a CSA with a minimum of seven different items each week. Farmyard also offers three different share sizes, and they provide delivery right to your doorstep.

Well, there you have it. Crème de la Crème of Peoria wants you to get your fresh veggies, and CSAs are one way you can do it. Do you think this type of program would work for your family? Let us know about your experiences with CSA boxes.