CSA in San Francisco?
FYI, I tried Eatwell for a month in August 2007 and the quality was consistently poor. I think they save their best produce for the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, and they send food to their CSA that most farms won't let out the door. Tomatoes and potatoes arrived that would mould within a few days; vegetables arrived with bad insect damage (see attached). I have tried many CSAs around the country and this has been the poorest quality I have yet seen. Could just be a bad year -- but buyer beware.
We subscribed to Eatwell for nearly a year, and I think their produce quality slipped considerably; we've now quit. The eggs they sell to Rainbow Grocery now are all brown as compared to the variety of colors from their Araucana hens that they used to have, and the yolks were a pale yellow in the most recent batch. Flavor seems to have suffered too, but that could just be compounding psychological effects.
The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back for us was a box containing plums and tomatoes, neither of which were ripe. The plums were so hard that they sat on the counter for weeks, and never softened--only shriveled. This was at the same time I started shopping at Andy's Orchard down in Morgan Hill for stone fruit, tomatoes, and beautiful Romesco Squash, and the comparison on the stone fruit and tomatoes did not do Eatwell any favors.
Our impression was also that the CSA subscribers were getting worse produce than they brought to the ferry plaza, and less interesting produce (we'd see good tomatoes or peppers at the ferry plaza on weeks when they weren't in our boxes).
I know they're just a small family trying to make a go of it, but statements like this, "I have always said that we dare to pick our fruit ripe so that it tastes great. There is always the danger that it may get damaged on the way or that we miss some damage as we are packing your box. I have thought about this for a while now and i do not want to pick under ripe fruit." from the blog on eatwell.com just end up seeming completely disingenuous when compared to my first-hand experiences throughout the summer with eatwell.
Sadly, I've had a somewhat similar experience with Terra Firma. I always get great tomatoes, but the stone fruit is always damaged, and despite the fact that I've received corn in almost every weekly box, I've yet to eat it even once: every week it's either moldy or full of worms.
I've been going to Alemany Market every week for another project I'm working on, and just decided to cancel the CSA subscription and pick up most of my produce there, supplemented by some materials from Bi-Rite.
We've been very happy with Two Small Farms. This was a tough year, weather wise, but in the past several years we've always enjoyed the variety and quality of their box.
Our family of two adults/1 small child shares with another couple in our neighborhood, so we're not overwhelmed. We could never use a full box on our own, but splitting it is perfect, with occasional supplements of Asian vegetables, which we really don't get in the box. We do get fabulous escarole, peppers, tomatillos, kale, chard, broccoli, leeks, cippoline onions and the very sweetest strawberries. Oh, that's about the only fruit in the TSF box (occasional apples, pears), we buy most of our fruit at the various Farmers Markets.
Capay / Farm Fresh to You has grown well beyond the usual CSA model. They've got 240 acres, two retail stores, a wholesale operation, and a mail-order business. The retail operation alone has at least 12 employees. The boxes are distributed from Sacramento to San Jose.
Most CSAs sell only what they produce or occasionally supplement with produce from neighboring farms. Capay sells bananas. Maybe they don't put them in their CSA boxes, but it's not quite the close connection between consumer and small family farm that I want.
re: Robert Lauriston
Granted they may be a bigger operation and have certainly expanded (succeeded) beyond what they started as - but I wouldn't rule them out as a CSA. If you don't want bananas, you don't have to get them.
You can customize your boxes from them, they have a couple of different sizes and styles of boxes (fruit only for example) and they do deliver to your doorstep vs. the drop off only locations of many of the other CSAs.
I also subscribe to Eatwell and would recommend either one of these. The Capay/Farm Fresh box tends to be a bit bigger than Eatwell's most of the time, but the items are similar from both from week to week.
Eatwell has offered eggs in the past (although the chickens aren't producing well at the moment so that may not be an option for newer subscribers) and you can order their lavendar products too.
re: Robert Lauriston
Here are most of the CSAs that deliver to San Francisco (I may be forgetting one or two):
Two Small Farms (One of the two farms is Mariquita, which also sells at the Ferry Plaza.)
However, they've just finished their season for the year, and won't start up again until March.
Farm Fresh to You (Capay
Terra Firma Farm
Most if not all of them should deliver near you. After weighing the options, we decided to go with Terra Firma, because their large box has enough veggies and fruit for us to use for most of the week, with a little supplementing from a farmer's market. But we're vegetarians and cook almost every night, so your needs may be completely different from ours. I would say the produce is average to amazing, depending, and the variety is good, although I wish they would have more exotic vegetables -- they don't stray much from the standards except for some things like bok choy and fava beans. We tried switching to Two Small Farms for that very reason, and the quality of the produce was consistently fantastic--but we felt like the box was designed to be used by people who use veggies mostly for their side dishes, and we ended up spending a lot more at the farmer's market, so we switched back. We also decided this year to unsubscribe from Terra Firma during the summer--we just don't like corn and melons enough, and prefer the flexibility of shopping at the market for those months.
There are some great discussions on the board about what people like and don't like about their CSAs:
www.chowhound.com/topics/38414 -- this one includes my review of Terra Firma. Note that it's about the East Bay, so some of the farms, including River Dog and, sadly, Full Belly, don't deliver to San Francisco.
www.chowhound.com/topics/44470 -- Eatwell and Capay reviews
Hope this helps -- I moved here after 6 years in Boston a couple of years ago and still feel amazingly blessed to be living someplace where we have so many choices and can buy local produce and support local farmers year round.