Using a CSA to Supplement Your Garden Harvest.

It's hard work to grow your own food. I'm not even going to sugar coat it, friends. I am so thankful I have the summers off and am able to spend a few hours each day in my garden because, frankly, I couldn't grow food for our family and friends without those few hours of hard work. 

There are several of you out there who don't grow your own food. I know because I get emails, Facebook messages, and comments from you almost daily. You love eating fresh, local produce but aren't producing it in your backyard {yet}. 

A CSA membership, known as Community Supported Agriculture, is a way for you to receive a regular portion of a large farm's produce harvest. THIS, my friends, is the answer to your fresh produce prayers. 

To make sure I could give you an accurate, in-depth look I visited the Bass Farms CSA program near Mount Vernon, Iowa. 

My goal is to share how this particular CSA and Farm Market does business, so you can have a baseline for finding a quality CSA in your area

So, let's talk about Bass Farms, k? 

Not only is the farm beautiful, but they are so much more than a CSA (think agri-tours and camping!). Read about that here, since I won't be talking about it much in this post.

When you pull in the driveway you can veer to your right for the Farm Market, which is where the magic happened when I visited:

Or you can drive up the hill, where produce is washed and prepared for the CSA baskets. The chickens also live up there and the beehives are out back.

Anyway, back to the Farm Market. When you walk in the store, you see 2 big aisles of dressings, sauces, jams, jellies and marinades. These items are not made from scratch at Bass Farms, but by a company that they contract. If you are a label reader, you'll want to use those skills in case you have special nutrition or dietary needs.

There are also a ton of spices and seasonings, oils, pasta, and honey from the Bass Farms hives. (I purchased some Apricot honey spread - delicious!)

Most of the produce on the farms goes to the CSA baskets. These are whole and half bushel boxes that are delivered to 6 different locations in Eastern Iowa, or can be picked up at the Farm Market.

Of course, but there is still a variety of fresh produce to purchase for those who do not have a CSA membership to purchase at the Farm Market. As an extra service, Bass Farms has a punch card for CSA members that entitles them to 15 pounds of extra produce per year, which they can select from the bins in the store.

A full share at Bass Farms is $675, and gives members a weekly bushel box for 16-18 weeks. That's $37 - $42 a week for pesticide and herbicide free produce that is in season at the farm. Here's a shot of this week's full share box:

Side note: these are important questions to ask, folks! You want to know how the farmers grow, maintain, and harvest their produce. You are paying for this service, and the farmers should be willing to share the nitty gritty details of the farm {if you ask politely}.

A half share at Bass Farms is $425 and perfect for a small family or two people. It runs about $26 a week, which is more inline with our budget.

All shares also include 15 pounds of canning tomatoes, 3 fall pumpkins, access to the pick-your-own herb garden, and use of their 20 picnic tables and gazebo located at the farm. At Bass Farms you can also add on eggs and herbs in your CSA box for a small fee. Your Bass Farms CSA membership also includes 30% off purchases in the Farm Market store.

Like soaps, handmade in Monticello, Iowa:

Or additional produce from their coolers: 

Or their eggs from their flock that lives on-site: 

I asked about their eggs, and the Market clerk said they are by far her most popular item for walk-in shoppers of the Farm Market. Shoppers also love the sauces, cheese, honey, and queso dip. The eggs still reign numero uno.

The 30% off discount doesn't include the locally raised meats from Edgewood Locker, which are stocked in a deep freezer at the Farm Market.

A membership to a CSA has some serious benefits, guys. You can see that by now, right? A few points I want to make clear:

1. Ask questions about how the food is grown. 

2. Visit multiple CSAs and shop around. Compare quality, prices, additional services, delivery areas, and selection. 

If you are local to Eastern Iowa, there are a couple other CSAs I recommend you check into. Here are the links:

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