Sustainability Recipe: Join a CSA!

Campus Sustainability Office May 3, 2018

What practical things can we do in our daily lives to protect our living environment, save money, and contribute to good jobs for people in our community?

We’ve done the research alongside our partner (formerly) Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and these 13 steps in the areas of local food, building energy, waste reduction, and transportation are a great place to start. The Sustainability Life Recipes series will focus on ways to save money, go green, and learn about resources to support your journey. Have an idea? Send us a note at

Purchase a CSA share and receive a weekly portion of the farm’s products. Farmers benefit from a long-term customer, and consumers get fresh, delicious, healthy fruit and vegetables, and meat, at below-retail prices.

CSA is increasingly popular in Tompkins County; over 4,200 CSA shares were sold in 2014.

If you want to fill your fridge with fresh, healthy produce at a very affordable price, a CSA is for you. Discover a comprehensive CSA directory with specialty options on the CCE-Tompkins website.


A vegetable CSA is great for people who want or need to get a lot vegetables in their diet. It is also be helpful to be into cooking or be prepared to learn.


Peruse our local CSA guide to get to know the different CSA offerings. Aside from making sure you are getting the type of product you want (vegetables or meat or fruit or...), you should consider:

  • Share size and type - farms offer “small”, “large”, “family”, “basic”, “premium”, “half” and “full” sizes. There are no standard sizes used by all farms. Call the farm to get the right size for you.

  • Season - A typical summer vegetable CSA share lasts 23 weeks from June - November, but some farms offer semester shares for those with schedules tied to our local colleges, and winter shares as well.

  • Price - Prices vary. Some farms offer “working shares”, where members can work in exchange for a lower payment. Subsidized vegetable CSA shares--50% off--are available for households with limited income through Healthy Food for All.

  • Payment - Some farms require upfront payment; others offer payment plans. Pickup location - Farms may offer one or more pick-up locations and on different days. Some farms will deliver; others will set up a drop-off spot if they have enough customers there. See Cornell campus drop-offs here.

  • The Farm & Farming - some farms offer U-pick and work opportunities, so you might want to check out the farm’s location. Some farms are certified organic.

You can meet many of the CSA farmers by attending a CSA Open House hosted by Cooperative Extension of Tompkins in March or April of each year.


  1. Should I do a Box Share or Free Choice? Some farms pre-pack boxes every week while others allow the member to pick & choose certain quantities from the week’s harvest. Depending on your preference, this can make a big difference in whether or not you enjoy your CSA. While some like the convenience and anticipation of pre-packed boxes, others like to handpick their produce.

  2. When will I pick up my share? The pick-up/delivery days and times vary by CSA farm. Choosing a farm with a pick-up day and time convenient for you will have a big impact on your experience throughout the entire CSA season. Do you like to run errands on your way home from work, or on the weekend? Think about your current weekly routine and how picking up your CSA can fit in and enrich the experience.

  3. Where will I pick up my share? Some CSA farms have many options, some just a few. Do you want the experience of visiting a farm each week and picking out your produce or do you want a quick and convenient pickup close to where you live or work? Pickups on the farm often include u-pick options.


  • Contact Avi Miner, local food educator at Cooperative Extension of Tompkins, at or (607) 272-2292. Avi can not only answer your questions, but can come to your workplace and speak on local food resources, including workplace CSA drop-offs.

  • To learn more about subsidized CSA shares provided by Healthy Food for All, contact Elizabeth Karabinakis, Cornell Cooperative Extension, at 607-272-2292 or