Think Outside the Box: CSA Box Trial

by BRIGITTA SZEIBERT

 

CSA, or community-supported agriculture, boxes are relatively common (especially in produce-rich California) but many, including myself, do not know exactly what they entail. To solve this enigma, I purchased one of the CSA boxes offered by South Central Farmers. South Central Farmers is a group that distributes boxes within the Los Angeles community and offers pick-up locations on the UCLA campus including the UCLA School of Law and UCLA Center for Health Sciences. In this article I will walk you through my journey by sharing what type of produce I received and a few ways I incorporated the box’s contents into my meals. Hopefully this inspires you to give CSA boxes a chance or try foods that you normally would not choose on your own!

 

CS-what?

As the name suggests, CSA boxes are boxes of produce from a local farm in the community. Since these boxes come directly from the farmer, the contents vary from week to week depending on the fruits and vegetables that are in season at the time. This encourages you to experiment with delicious seasonal produce and allows the farmer to have a consistent customer base year-round. This concept cuts out middlemen like grocery stores by creating a direct relationship between the consumer and producer. Often, this reduces transportation measures which can compromise freshness and harm the environment by exacerbating the carbon footprint. CSA boxes are a popular way to support local agriculture and make eco-friendly choices while promoting creativity with seasonal produce.

 

What’s in the box?

The “One-Time Full Size” option came in a large, brown cardboard box approximately 1 by 1 ½ feet wide. According to the website, all the items are certified organic and should be enough to feed a family of four for a week.

 

 

Apples to Apples

The one-time full size box costs $22.00. However, with my student discount I was able to save $3.00, resulting in a $19.00 final price. Since South Central Farmers’ boxes are picked up on campus, there is no additional delivery fee! Here is an item-by-item price comparison based on the equivalent produce at Ralphs in Westwood.

Surprisingly, the CSA box (with student discount) came out to be $1.35 less than the equivalent of regular, non-organic produce at Ralphs...and saves you a trip to the grocery store.

 

Seasonal Menu Inspiration

  • Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Kale Nachos
  • Homemade Sweet Potato Fries (Baked)
  • Tabbouleh Salad
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup

 

Recipe Spotlight

Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Kale Nachos

Serves: 1

2 small sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

½ cup kale, chopped

¼ cup black beans

Sprinkle of shredded cheese

1 tablespoon sour cream or Greek yogurt

Green onions, finely chopped

Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Gently scrub sweet potatoes to remove any dirt from the skin. Slice sweet potatoes into thin rounds about ¼ inch thick. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes. Then increase temperature to 400° Fahrenheit, flip potatoes, and bake for additional 5-10 minutes or until crispy.
  2. While sweet potato chips are still warm sprinkle with shredded cheese to melt. Meanwhile, microwave kale in a bowl for 30 seconds to soften slightly. In a separate bowl, do the same to warm the black beans.
  3. Top the cheesy sweet potato chips with black beans, kale, sour cream (or alternatively Greek yogurt). Garnish with green onions. Enjoy!

 

Conclusion

Pros and Cons

Pros: inexpensive, time-saving, supports local farmers, fresh

Cons: limited pick-up time window (I had class during the entire slot), less choice

Was it worth it?

Economically and quality-wise, yes. Overall, I was very pleased with my experience!

Does a full size box contain enough produce to last one person for a week?

A One-Time Full Size box is meant to be enough for a family of four for a week. However, one must take into consideration the amount of produce the average person consumes. For individuals who eat mainly plant-based diets, this box may not contain enough produce to last a week. This box can be supplemented with additional grains, legumes, and lean protein to create a well-balanced diet. The box I received contained more vegetables than fruit. Since I love having fruit on hand for breakfast, I ended up going to the store to pick up a few more items. Ultimately, how long this box lasts depends on the diet preferences of those eating it.

Too much produce for one person?

Personally, I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet so I am used to going through a lot of produce every week. I think having more produce in the fridge encourages me to make healthier choices. I shared some items with my roommates to utilize everything to the best of my ability.

Would I do it again?

Yes!

Do you have any suggestions for CSA box beginners?

Start small to see if you like it.

Make sure you are available during the pick-up time.

Remember to pay online with PayPal before you pick-up.

Tip: If you email South Central Farmers a picture of your Bruincard, they will give you a student discount code.