Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 12:13 pm by TRUiC Team


The 10 Most Profitable Crops for your CSA

When deciding on your crop selection for the CSA, it’s important to consider the profitability of a crop. In this guide we cover the factors to consider when assessing how profitable a crop will be, as well as our pick for top 10 most profitable CSA crops. Let’s get started!

Recommended: Read our 5 step guide to starting a CSA written by a successful startup CSA owner.

Factors to Consider

In the context of a CSA, the profitability of a crop can be broken down into a few determining factors:

  • Cost of production. This includes costs of labor to plant and harvest, fertilization, seeds.
  • Productivity / yield. How many pounds, bunches, etc. do you get per plant?
  • Required space. How much space does the plant take up in your garden?
  • Time spent in the field from seed to harvest. For instance, 45 days to maturation, 60 days, etc.
  • The level of “added value.” How high is the customer demand for this crop?

It’s also important to remember that profitability will fluctuate with certain crops depending on your local climate, growing conditions, and the specific tastes of your CSA members. Some crops may be in high demand in one part of the country but not do well elsewhere.

Keeping these factors in mind, here’s our pick for the ten most profitable crops.

Radish

Radish is great because it’s very high yielding, requires minimal space, and grows extremely fast (30 days). It’s not as popular among consumers as some other things, and therefore has less added value, but it’s a versatile vegetable in the kitchen. For these reasons, radish can make a profitable addition to your weekly box, especially if you educate your CSA members on how to use it in different dishes.

Lettuce

What needs to be said about lettuce? Probably the most popular vegetable consumed in the US, lettuce has a lot of added value and can be grown for every week of your CSA season. It is also fast-growing, high-yielding, takes up minimal space in the garden, and is easy to grow (especially if you're growing baby greens with a quick-greens harvester). Therefore, lettuce should be considered one of the most profitable crops to include in your CSA.

Arugula

Like lettuce, arugula is high-yielding, fast-growing, requires minimal space in the garden, and has a low cost of labor. It does have an acquired taste because of its spiciness, so people usually love it or hate it by itself, but baby arugula can be included in salad mixes to add a nice kick. 

You probably wouldn’t want to include it in every box, but it definitely adds variety and is worth trying out.

Spinach

Most people love spinach. It can be used in cooking or included in salads, and it ranks very high in terms of added value. It is very high-yielding, fast-growing, and can be harvested quickly (depending on your method).

Spinach should definitely be included in your CSA during the spring, but it can be grown for fall shares as well. However, its profitability goes down quite a bit for fall planting since it typically requires transplanting which is labor intensive. If you’re doing a winter CSA, spinach is a must have, as it is one of the few crops that thrives in freezing conditions and in fact tastes better when there’s a little frost.

It can be direct seeded during the spring using a push seeder and harvested with the quick greens harvester, which greatly reduces labor costs. And like some other varieties of greens, it grows back and can be harvested multiple times, depending on the season.

Kale

People love kale because it’s easy to use in the kitchen and has great flavor, especially when harvested during the cooler seasons. It’s a crop that will continue to produce for many weeks, as it is continually harvested. For this reason it’s a space efficient crop and has a high overall yield. However, kale’s not as space efficient as some other greens.

Since it is so easy to grow and harvest, and because of its added value to CSA boxes, kale is a must have.

Tomatoes

One of the most popular vegetables in the world, tomatoes have tremendous added value. Tomatoes are also the single most productive crop that can be grown, if done correctly. They do require a ton of labor, but the overall yields and added value to your CSA box outweighs the labor costs. You simply can’t run a CSA without including tomatoes.

Zucchini

This summer squash variety makes the list simply because it’s so productive. Although people usually don’t like to see zucchini every week, it is worth doing one succession. It adds a lot of weight and volume to the CSA box and therefore has high added value. Zucchini can have higher than average production costs because of its fertility and labor requirements.

Beets

This crop is a favorite and has high added value, but they shouldn’t be included in every box throughout the season, as people eventually get sick of them. Beets are extremely productive, require little space in the garden, and have only a slightly higher than average cost of labor.

Although it’s easy to plant beets by direct seeding with the Jang seeder, it does take some time to harvest, wash and dry. Beets are considered a mid-season crop, meaning that the growing time is around 60 days, which is not that bad. They add a good amount of weight and volume to the boxes as well, especially if you keep the leafy heads attached. Beet greens can also be used in cooking like any other leafy green.

Basil

If you're going to include any herbs in your CSA, basil should be at the top of the list. Although this crop takes a little while to get going, once it is established, it becomes extremely productive. 

Basil has an extremely high added value. People love it. And it requires little space to grow — in fact, basil can be inter-planted for pest management on tomatoes and other crops. The only downside is that basil can be labor-intensive to harvest if you're pruning by hand, which is the recommended method. However, the value outweighs the extra labor cost.

Carrots

This is another profitable root crop that should definitely be included in any CSA. It is very productive if grown correctly, requires little space, grows relatively quick, and has high added value.

Carrots are a little more labor-intensive than other crops because of the time required to harvest and wash, but it’s very easy to plant them if you use a multi-row seeder.