CSAs are a Ripoff

We signed up for a CSA with rave reviews (an average of 4.5+ stars on Yelp) and got two boxes. We paid $35 for week home delivery of a box of produce.

For $35, we got:

  • Strawberries (2 pints; several moldy or mushy)
  • 4 Fuji Apples
  • 4 Baby Bok Choy
  • 4 Green Bell Peppers
  • large bunch of Red Butter Lettuce
  • large bunch of Green Curly Kale
  • 1 Romanesco
  • 1 Cheddar (yellow) Cauliflower
  • 1 bag Bloomsdale Spinach
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 bunch Pink Radishes

Hmmm…well, the quality was great, but not phenomenal. The tomatoes were delicious; savory. The lettuce was terrific, soft and blemish-free. The rest was quite good but nothing to write home about. And I believe all of it was organic.

For comparison, we went to Berkeley Bowl and got the following produce (hand-picked, so we could choose exactly what we wanted):

  • 48 squash blossoms (flor de calabaza)
  • 7 small beets (organic)
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • 4 large bunches of Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch of celery (organic)
  • 1 plantain
  • 1 medium-sized bunch of wine grapes
  • 1 small head (?) of ginger
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 7 gorgeous heirloom peppers
  • 6 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • yellow and orange bell peppers (1 of each)
  • 1 fuyu persimmon
  • 1 hachiya persimmon
  • 1 bunch of radishes (organic)
  • 1 red prickly pear (cactus fruit)
  • 1 bunch of savory (herb; organic)
  • 1 bag of fresh fava beans (organic)
  • 5 carrots (organic)
  • 3 large watermelon radishes (organic)
  • 1 head green cabbage (organic)
  • 1 Chinese bitter melon
  • 1 kabocha squash (organic)

Now, not everything was organic, as you can see above. But the total cost of ALL of those items? $41.72. It’s easily twice as much food, and all food of our picking. What’s a little puzzling is that there is a middleman here who demands 50%, so the farmers are providing this bounty of food to BB for a bit more than $20. Aren’t CSAs supposed to be cheaper because there isn’t a middleman?

If you want to be completely fair about it, there’s the cost of gas (about 1.2 gallons for the round trip, so about $5.40) and the cost of the bridge toll ($5), so now we’re up to about $52. And there’s the cost of time, which is almost nothing, considering that my time is practically worthless at this point, I enjoy shopping there, and we have had to shop for non-produce items anyway.

Yep, we’ve cancelled our CSA service. And we’re planning on weekly trips to Berkeley Bowl instead.