Try a Farmers Market or CSA for Fresh Foods

Last Updated: January 10, 2024
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Farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Succulent fruits and crisp, colorful vegetables satisfy your hunger without weighing you down. Fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories and packed with fiber, nutrients, and vitamins and minerals that help you stay healthy and energized throughout the day.

For those of you who favor fresh, seasonal, and local fruits and veggies, farmers’ markets and CSAs provide an alternative to big-chain grocery stores.  Both options are bursting with a plentiful supply of produce.  The big question is not what to buy this time of year, but where to buy it?  Should you join a CSA or visit your local farmers’ market?  The following points can help you choose the best option for you and/or your family.

What is a farmers' market?

  • A farmers’ market (also known as a greenmarket) is a public market where local farmers and other vendors sell their products directly to consumers.
  • It usually occurs on a set day of the week in an indoor/outdoor location (parking lot, building, field, and so forth).
  • You can find fresh produce as well as a variety of other items to include crafts, flowers, cheeses, meats, honey, and/or prepared foods and beverages.

What is CSA?

  • CSA is a way for you to buy local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer in your community.  It is basically a farm share.  You purchase “shares” from a local farm with money up front for a membership.  In exchange, during the growing season, you get a box of fruits, vegetables, and/or sometimes other farm products like milk, eggs, and dairy.  Most CSAs offer full shares for larger families or half to quarter shares for smaller households or individuals.
  • Typically, you pick-up your food “share” at the farm, or the farmer delivers your share to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood.
  • Produce items vary according to the season (i.e., strawberries and sugar snap peas in the spring, watermelon and bell peppers in the summer, and so forth), and you may not get to choose what will be delivered in your CSA box.​

Comparing farmers markets and CSA

Key: Y = Yes; S = Sometimes; you may need to ask​

Benefit CSA Farmers Market
Buy local Y Y
Ultra-fresh, seasonal produce Y Y
All produce is certified organic S S
Develop a close-knit relationship with the farmer Y  
Provides an opportunity to meet/talk with various farmers or vendors in your community   Y
Pay up-front (payment goes directly into seeds, soil, materials, equipment) Y  
Pay-as-you-go (pay at check-out)   Y
Limited to one farm Y  
In general, less expensive Y  
Decreases carbon footprint (farm-to-plate miles are reduced) Y Y
Exposure to new produce you would not typically purchase for yourself Y  
Usually offers foods other than produce (honey, dairy, eggs, meats, flowers, and so forth) S Y
Better option for people who dine out or travel a lot (more control over the quantity needed/purchased)   Y

Thinking of joining a CSA?

Joining a CSA is a “shared investment” with the farmer to get the seasonal food options allowing the farmer to have payment in advance of the season.​

Before you join, ask the following questions to make sure it is the right fit for you.

  1. How big is a share (will it feed 2, 4, or more)?
  2. Can shares be split among groups (neighbors, groups of friends, co-workers)?
  3. What day is pick-up and where?
  4. Does the farm provide all the produce in the CSA, or do they obtain some from other sources?
  5. Is the food organic?  Organic certification can be hard to obtain. Ask the farmer about his/her growing practices. 1) Do they use pesticides and herbicides? 2) What kind of fertilizer do they use? 3) How sustainable is their farm.
  6. Can the cost of the CSA be offset through volunteer work?
  7. Does the CSA offer sliding-scale prices for lower-income families?
  8. Does the farmer offer recipes/tips on how to use, store, and/or prepare the produce from the share?

Choosing a CSA or a farmers’ market is a great way to access seasonal produce, eat well, support your local community, and protect your environment. Search the Web for a CSA or farmers’ market in your area using your city and, state or check out these links to find a CSA or farmers’ market near you.

Finding farmers markets and CSAs near you

Farmers markets


Community support agriculture (CSA)