Which CSA Farm is Best?
Has anybody had experiences with both Angelic Organics and King's Hill CSAs, or with other CSAs in the Chicago area?
Last year, we had a share from Angelic. We really liked it, but I just ran across the King's Hill info and I'm considering switching over.
Angelic's pluses: The quality was always excellent. Their vegetables were superb and their choice of unusual varieties was really nice. The tomatoes and potatoes in particular were really great, and their emphasis on what we lovingly call Unpopular Vegetables (brussels sprouts, cauliflower, squash) made us really happy. Also, MOST of the time, the half-bushel box was STUFFED. We split the box with another couple, and after we unpacked, divided, and repacked the veggies each week, half the share often seemed to fill up the box. And Angelics certainly does have a ton of drop-off sites - a big help in picking it.
The minuses: Sometimes boxes were weirdly lopsided, and you got the feeling that it had more to do with poor planning (and planting) than seasonal vagaries. For example, both beets and carrots would be in season, and week after week, we'd get fifteen pounds of beets but not a single carrot. Then we'd get two boxes in a row stuffed with more carrots than anyone could reasonably use. For things like tomatoes or corn that makes sense, but for steadier-growing crops it sucked a little bit. This was especially annoying once Angelic's shorter, half-summer share kicked in, and the fill line on the box dropped noticeably for a few weeks until the big harvest push began. It was great to have 13 eggplants, but a drag to have almost nothing else to cook them with.
...That, a $50/year price difference, and the promise of snap peas are making me at least consider a farm like King's Hill. But maybe the number of pounds a CSA takes to "fill" a half-bushel box can vary quite a bit, and perhaps NONE of the CSAs is very good at staggering plantings and so on.
So what about Kings Hill, or other CSAs? Have you liked them? Were the veggies worth it? And, I guess most importantly, is that half-bushel box really jam-packed?
I'm especially curious as to whether or not anyone has had experience with the shares from both Angelic Organics Farm and King's Hill Farm - it'd be great to compare!
Thanks in advance...
I would not recommend Kings Hill. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I wrote to the individual drafting the section on CSAs for the Slow Food Guide.
My husband and I joined in April. As you probably know, Kings Hill is year round, they fill in their boxes with organic produce from other producers, mainly California. This is indicated clearly on their website as is a statement that once June 31st rolls around the produce will mainly be from the farm. Initially, I was happy with their products - I felt like we were getting better quality than what I would get from local stores. That quality declined rapidly. We put in a permanent skip order in July, when the box was still full of produce shipped from California, including 2 moldy blood oranges and an over the hill pineapple. I have not written anything yet to the farm, but I will as I felt misled considering the wide variety of produce coming from local farms at the farmer's markets and, even worse, taken advantage of, given the poor quality of the products towards the end - I mean a moldy blood orange (?! - I love them in February, not July). Long and short, I would not recommend adding them to the book.
That's an interesting analysis, MAG. We joined the Growing Power CSA 1st, about 3 or 4 months ago. It was very limited in pickups, and had absolutely no online presence. We were bummed after the 1st month of boxes, as we saw way too many of the same items & no variance week-to-week. I would bet this was in October, and we obviously signed up past true growing seasons.
It was lots of brussel sprouts, apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
After talking about our new veggie box with an acquaintance, she suggested King's Hill Farm.
I went online & investigated; was pleasantly suprised to see how much online activity there is, in addition to the ability to add special orders (with items such as tofu, eggs, granola, breads, etc), and skip shares.
When we received our 1st box from King's Hill we were so happy. By now, we're getting into Nov / Dec, so we knew our produce was coming from other areas. But, when we saw mangos and papayas in the "fruit suprise" (an additional option, not included in the share price, at your election), in addition to apples, oranges, pears, etc. in the share we were quite happy. The fruit missing from Growing Power was a big reason we wanted to try something new.
Overall, we've been happy with the variation (different types of chard, different types of potato, apples, etc.) and the ability to skip with the push of a button. We've been getting a full share, but skipping every other week in order to catch up.
We usually see 2 to 4 different types of lettuce (green, romaine, boston bibb to name a few), a bunch of veggies - including some tomatoes, lots of greens, onions - and lots of fruit.
There are a number of pickup locations & we're using Healing Earth now, so you have the ability to pick up until 8 pm on Saturdays, great for slackers like me :)
My roommate keeps a pretty good list of items we receive, although the last box we didn't take inventory. For a sample of some of the shipments, check out the link below.
I guess the true test will be when the growing season starts; until then, we're very happy with the shipments we've received so far.
We've been Kill's Hill customers for almost a year now, and I can honestly say it's one of the best things we've ever done for ourselves. I think they strike a nice balance between consistency and variety. Always potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, and salad fixings, and then other stuff that we didn't buy before. We now love the beets, or papaya, or kale, or special pears that come in the order. We have had a couple of bad pieces of fruit, but when I called or emailed I got a prompt response and credit on my order no questions asked. We started with the full order and split with a neighbor, and also got the fruit surprise, but now get a half order and no fruit surprise because it was more food than me, my husband, and my 1 1/2 yr old could eat. I love the option to add produce if I need it, and also it's great to be able to 'skip' without a hassle. It saves us alot of time and money compared to Whole Paycheck, and it also saves us getting run over in parking lot by a Lexus SUV! I heartily recommend CSAs and King's Hill in particular.
I really wish I had read through these posts before I joined King's Hill. It has been extremely disappointing. Considering the fact that it's late July, I was shocked last week to see that 90% of my order was labeled with locations such as California, Ecuador, and Panama. I want to support local businesses and sustainable agriculture. The produce isn't even seasonal: I've gotten cabbage three weeks in a row (not to mention a moldy cantaloupe this week). I'm switching for the time being to the Evanston Farmer's Market. Avoid King's Hill CSA - it's a scam.
I've been a CSA member for about 10 years. We started in California with Knoll Farm and then when we moved to Wisconsin we signed up with Vermont Valley. I vote for staying the course. The problems you mention are common to food farming...especially organic. I remember years when we've had too much broccoli or carrots or whatever...and the reason was that they bugs didn't eat it but ate something else, or the morning temperatures were wrong, or no rain, or too much rain...you get the point. So much is out of the farmer's control. By staying with Angelic you can make your voice heard, urge for more mache or head lettuce or whatever makes you happy. Best of all they are local.
This is our first year as full-share members of Home Grown Wisconsin. The boxes are nicely packed, the program is well organized, and the newsletter is a real treat. The quality has been incredible and with great variety. In just the last six weeks, we have received (some more than once): arugula-baby, basil, beans-snap, beets-red, broccoli, cabbage-green, chard-rainbow, chives, collards, cucumbers-diva, garlic scapes, kale, kale-lacinato, kohlrabi, lettuce-batavian, lettuce-little gem, lettuce-red bibb, lettuce-red leaf, lettuce-romaine, onions-mini red, onions-mini white, parsley, peas-sugar snap, potatoes-new red, radishes, raspberries-black, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, sprouts-sunflower, squash-yellow, strawberries, tomatoes-roma, zucchini.