Fight Inflation Locally with CSAs
Island Resilience, June 2024

Fight Inflation Locally with CSAs

By Stephen Buller

The official annual rate of inflation reported in April 2024 was 3.36%. That word “official” usually gives credibility to facts and figures, but if you know anything about inflation, you know the opposite holds true here. The consumer price index (CPI) tracks “a chosen basket of goods and services.” Chosen by whom? By people at the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics who want you to believe inflation isn’t as bad as it is.

The CPI has been manipulated and obscured for many years for many reasons, and if you want something closer to reality, I encourage you to do some reading at They provide CPI metrics using methodologies employed by the government in past decades. These older metrics show overall rates of inflation consistently above 10%, spiking to 17% in 2023.

For the purposes of this article, however, we’ll focus on the cost of food. Is a 3.36% annual increase in prices in line with your experience at the grocery store over the past few years?

I’m hearing a resounding “No,” and the grocery store is not to blame. Mismanagement of the U.S. dollar is the problem. Because you and I don’t have much input on our national currency, let’s look at something within our control. The grocery store is a wonderful convenience, but there are ways to supplement your food to save money, build resilience, and support your local community.

Vashon has multiple farms that operate community-supported agriculture programs. There are nuances to how a CSA can operate, but simply put, it’s a subscription to receive food on a regular basis for a set timeframe at a set price. Just like large-scale farms sell futures contracts for their crops, locking in prices in advance based on costs at planting time, CSAs usually sell a weekly supply for a given harvest.

There are many advantages to CSAs. The total cost to you will likely be less than at the grocery store because the farmer can avoid distribution costs and other overhead. Product quality will be higher because the food is fresher and you can directly ask the farmer questions about how they’ve grown or raised their products, and express your preferences. You will also build relationships with your neighbors who work hard to grow all kinds of foods.

There are costs, as well. You will usually need to pay up-front for multiple weeks. You will have limited choice of what you receive, in some cases. And you’ll need to go through the food each week or it will spoil – as all truly fresh food does.

All these factors mean that CSAs will work better for different people in different situations. With the additional benefit of reducing your carbon footprint, I personally enjoy basing my vegetable intake on what we get from our CSA and supplementing where necessary. We also have a wonderful bread subscription and enjoy Vashon beef. If you’re looking for a way to reduce food costs, eat healthier, and support Vashon farmers, look no further than your local CSA.

I want to leave you with a final note on the importance of semantics. Today, most people speak of “inflation” with regards to increases in prices. But which prices? As with the CPI, these numbers can become complicated. Were there little to no price increases prior to the pandemic, or did they simply appear in other areas, like the stock, bond, and housing markets? It is crucial to understand that, if our government continues to increase the quantity of our currency, prices will continue to go up. We are $35 trillion in debt and counting…

June 6, 2024

About Author

buller Stephen Buller, CPA, is a Vashon native who graduated from VHS before getting his graduate degree in accounting from the University of Washington. He worked for four companies over 10 years before starting his own firm serving small businesses. In 2021, he returned to Vashon with his wife and two daughters, and is happy to be part of his hometown community once more.