Ask Chef Mary: Joining a CSA

I'm thinking about joining a CSA.  Do you think it’s worth my time and are they worth their value? Photo: Mary Payne Moran

April 22, 2011 - Los Angeles, California

Farm fresh swiss chard.

Dear Chef Mary,

I’m thinking about joining a CSA.  Do you think it’s worth my time and are they worth their value?

Jessica, Milwaukee


Dear Jessica,

As spring comes into full bloom, joining a CSA, also known as a  Community Supported Agriculture, is an excellent idea to consider for spring and summer. For those of you who don’t know, there are farms all over the county that have programs where you can pay a weekly or monthly fee, receiving weekly boxes of seasonal produce.

There’s much debate amongst consumers about whether or not it’s worth the investment. Some say the boxes contain vegetables they don’t like or they don’t know how to cook. Others say it’s a great way to get more for your money and it forces  families to eat new and different things.

Golden yellow peppers.

Though both sides are valid, it really depends on the farmers you buy from and the relationship you create with them.  The same goes for grocery stores. 

When you open up the conversation with the experts, you will find more ways to cut, clean and cook foreign fruits and vegetables making the boxes extremely worth it. 

All companies are different and some may offer a better deal than others, so if you are with one company and find you aren’t happy with the amount or the quality of vegetables then first talk to the owners or the manager and discuss your issues. 

By letting them know you aren’t happy with their produce, they may take a better look at what they’re providing and work toward giving you better quality stuff. If after you discuss your issues and they still don’t offer you better quality food, then definitely move on. 

Also, by knowing yourself and what you’re capable of cooking is important to know before choosing a CSA.  For instance, I’m a person who cooks about five days a week and I know that I would utilize all of the vegetables before the next delivery.  If, however, you’re someone who typically eats out and is thinking this would force you to be more proactive about cooking, I would say you should probably start with a smaller goal like going to the farmers market on Sunday and buying enough fresh produce for two days.

When you are successful with that then move to three days and eventually work your way up to an entire box of produce. 

Overall, I think CSA’s are a great way to support your community, eat more fruits and vegetables and become more knowledgeable about new and different produce.  Explore your town or city and do some research before investing in it.  No matter what you chose, Jessica, you should always try and create a relationship with your local purveyors and this will help ensure that you receive the best quality food you can get.

Read more Hail Mary Food of Grace in the Communities at the Washington Times

For more great cooking tips, recipes and stories from Chef Mary, visit her blog. To learn more about Chef Mary, check out her Hail Mary’s, Inc. Web site. E-mail questions for Ask Chef Mary Fridays to or click the Ask Chef Mary link above. 

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The information provided is general information about healthy eating. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice or treatment that may have been prescribed by your physician or other health care provider. Always consult a physician before starting any new diet or regimen. 

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Mary Moran

Upon graduating from the California School of Culinary Arts in 2002, Chef Mary Payne Moran began her professional career shelling crabs at the world-renowned restaurant, Michael's in Santa Monica.  Simultaneously, she launched her own company, Hail Mary’s, founded upon the belief that good food nurtures the soul, and began catering weddings, parties and large corporate events.

In the fall of 2008, Mary began teaching her culinary skills to others.    Currently she can be found at Hollywood School House teaching her after school cooking class, and teaching her popular "Vegetables or Not Here I Come" assembly.

Most recently, Mary has launched another division in her company as well as a chef she is now also a Certified Nutritionist for high profile clients.  She helps her clients discover their healthy way of eating.  Mary has recently been published in the Los Angeles Magazine, & The New Jersey Star Ledger.

Daily she addresses cooking aficionados through her blog - Cooking with Chef Mary as well as her how-to webisodes on You Tube.

Contact Mary Moran


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