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Boston Area CSA

Looking to participate in a CSA this summer, either with pick ups in the Boston area, or with the farm itself within a 30-40 min drive of downtown. So far, doing a search on the Board hasn't turned up much.

Those that have come up on my radar are Busa, Red Fire, Stillman's, Land's Sake, Drumlin, Waltham Fields, Brookfield and Bay End. Anyone have some personal experience? Positive or negative feedback welcome. Advice? Recommendations?

Thx!

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  1. We are going into our second summer with Parker Farms. He has a pick up in Davis, Central, and Porter... as well as a wekkend pick up at his farm in Lunenburg.

    As for the share, it is $300 for the small and I think $550 for the large. Also, there was a ton of variety in the veggies.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ponyboy

      Do you do the small or large share? For how many people?

      1. re: jdubboston

        We did a small. It was perfect for 2 people.

      2. re: ponyboy

        Plus, Steve (Parker) is a really nice guy. He had a hard time this past summer with all the rain and worked very hard to make it up to his CSA clients. He's doing a bunch of new stuff this season including fewer farmers' markets (i.e. more focus on CSA), an option to pickup on the farm in Lunenburg, and so on. Plus, he trades with his neighbors for fruit in season so there's variety beyond what he grows himself.

        Also see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/148203

        1. re: DavisSquare

          I'd buy from him again - although I think he's kinda cranky.

          1. re: DavisSquare

            Have you been in contact with him this year? I emailed the contact address that I found on the Mass. CSA Directory (plimag@rcn.com) and got a reply email to check with the Busa Farm website for info. So are Parker Farm & Busa one and the same?

          2. re: ponyboy

            My wife and I have just signed up for our third summer with Steve Parker. Its a great variety of vegetables and it is well run. A couple of things to note:
            -unlike other CSA's there is no labor requirement, though you are always welcome to come out
            -he will sometimes trade with neighboring fruit farms and add some variety to our pickup
            -he sends out long emails (more in the offseason) detailing his farming practices, what he is learning, how he is managing his land, his son, etc. It's interesting to get into the mind of a punk rock drummer-turned farmer.
            -last year (but I don't think the year before) he left the fields open to us from the last dropoff to the first frost to scavenge

            I absolutely recommend him http://web.mac.com/parkerfarm/iWeb/Si...

            Oh, we got the half share and it was plenty for two adults

            1. re: ponyboy

              Also I'll add that in addition to Parker Farm, we also have a meat CSA membership through Chestnut Farms. We pick up 10 lbs once a month in downtown arlington, though there are several locations (this is the most-connected to the MBTA for us). It is $70 for the 10 lb option.

              The quality is second to none I think, and all animals are fed what they have evolved to eat-- no hormones, etc. All comes professionally butchered, vacuum packed, and frozen. It is a family farm, a young family at that. I have met both the mother and daughter and they are wonderfully goofy and nice.

              The meat is a wide variety, and is detailed on their website. http://www.chestnutfarms.org/
              They have a waiting list to sign up, though they only recently got so full so as to need that, so the wait may not be very long. It is worth it, though.

            2. We've been members of Stillman's since 2000 or 2001, and very happy with them. There's been a decent variety of veggies and the fruit offerings were especially good last year. Also I *really* like the chatty weekly newsletter, which provides recipes, explanations of unfamiliar veggies, and a great sense of connection with the Stillman family.

              We started with their pickup in JP, and last year when we gave up our dying car we signed up for the new Sunday pickup at Clear Flour Bread. A ten-minute walk from the house and we could stopg for bread in the same trip!

              Half share is $300 and full share is $450. We had a half share last year and it was just right for the two of us - a good selection and amount of stuff, but not so much that we couldn't supplement from the Thursday farmer's market in Coolidge Corner when we wanted a little something else, or eat out once or twice a week. (Summer 2005 we had signed up for a full share because we were a household of four - me, BFP, and my elderly parents - and we became slaves of the veggie box when both my parents passed away before the summer had begun. I know the concept is sheer heresy, but we got SO SICK of week after week after week of a dozen ears of sweet corn we didn't take our share a few times!)

              They've started up a meat CSA as well - they have full and half shares for either 6 months or a full year, with prices ranging from $450 for ten pounds of meat a month (half share) for a half-year to $1680 for twenty pounds of meat a month for a full year. We really wanted to sign up but unfortunately funds have just been too tight this winter.

              1. We joined the Waltham CSA last year and plan to do it again. It's $500 for a full share, and we split it with another family, so $250 each. It was plenty and we plan to split a share again. They don't let you buy a half share, however, so if you only want half you have to find someone to split it with. We loved it, especially the pick-your-own part...had many a nice Sunday afternoon spent at the field picking cherry tomatoes or beans or basil or what have you with our 8 year old. I also liked that they contribute a lot of veggies to hunger relief, and any veggies that don't get picked up get donated, so if you had to miss a week you weren't wasting good food! The nice thing about sharing a share is that even with vacations and all that, one of you is usually around to pick up. Last year they had pickup on Sundays or Thursdays, and I believe they are adding another day this year. Nice folks, great veggies, what could be better?

                1 Reply
                1. re: kt1969

                  I have been a Waltham CSA shareholder for the past two years and I have found that it is well worth the price. Particularly when the tomatoes start coming in. I think we were getting up to ten pounds of tomatoes a week at peak this summer - and many are heirloom varieties, so it always makes me chuckle that people are paying $12 / plate for a few slices of heirlooms, and I am eating an entire one for pennies. Yum!

                  Regardless of which you choose, definitely choose to support your local farms!

                2. We've had a full share of organic veggies two years running from Red Fire, which is based in Granby. This past summer we added on a fruit share, which was delicious (it's coming from other farms I think) but quite small. The full share this coming year is $550 and the fruit share, which I'm not doing again (too much $) is maybe $180. There are two of us and a share is big (probably the amount of veggies we SHOULD be eating in a week!) and we froze and canned a bit as well as eating plenty of just-picked veggies, with a lot of interesting variety which was fun as we love to cook -- fresh edamame one week, daikon radish, interesting greens, etc. plus regular NE fare. We pick it up behind the Harvest Coop in Central Sq. and I think they've got a JP pick up and are adding a Somerville one. The folk are super nice and responsive and inclusive. The farm is out in Granby, which isn't as convenient for doing pick your own stuff, but they're looking for space for that closer to the city too. The veggies are gorgeous.
                  This site is a good resource: http://www.localharvest.org/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bee

                    I subscribed to Red Fire Farms this past year. The veggies were good for the most part - especially summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and PYO strawberries (the best ever!). I don't think I'll be doing it again though. Picking up was a hassle, it wasn't a great value, and there was way, way too much kale and turnips. I couldn't bear to throw any vegetables away, and by the end I hated turnips and going to the pickup location every week. The final straw was when another CSA member almost stole my bag of veggies and I had to chase them down. I would suggest the farmer's market.

                  2. Farm Direct Coope (www.farmdirectcoop.org) serves Salem, Marblehead and Melrose. The website hasn't yet been updated for the 2007 season but you can email the contact for additional information. I've been in it for two years and am extremely pleased with the quality and variety of furit, vegetables, and cheese received.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: redbird

                      I've been a member for 4 years and second this. However, I've heard there may be a change in suppliers this year. I trust them not to use crappy produce, though, so I'm not worried.

                      1. re: redbird

                        I have been toying with the idea of this for a while- and have heard good things about this one in particular ( I live in Melrose). Just a question: I get all of my produce ( and lots of other goodies) at Wilson FArms in Lexington. How does the quality and selection of this CSA compare to Wilson? TIA

                        1. re: macca

                          I'm ashamed to admit that I've never been to Wilson Farms, so I can't compare. Farm Direct Coop sources from a variety of different farms, so it's not dependent on one farm's crops. I find that means a great variety of produce. I like the cheese share, and have been especially happy with the unpasteurized cider and heirloom apples(from Cider Hill). I didn't like the peaches this year, about half were great and half were mealy. But Julie, who works with the farmers, takes that feedback back to the farmers, and very often is able to negotiate compensation when we get bad produce. You can't beat the convenience, having it right here in Melrose. And you can even have it all delivered to your house for $75 or so for the season.

                          The downside is the downside you'd have with any CSA- you get what you get, not always what you want or what you need. FDC does do it a bit differently, in that you don't get a box of preselected produce- you get some choice. But if you're planning a dish with tomatoes, for example, and you don't get any, you still have to go out and buy them. And then you have a big bunch of kale you hadn't planned for and might not know how to cook, or even like. I'd say about 10% of what I get ends up not getting used, but again, you'd probably find that with any CSA. And, in a way, this has been a upside for me- it forces me to be creative in my menus and try new vegetables. It took me a few years to warm up to chard, which I'd never cooked before I was in this CSA, but now I look forward to it!

                          The other downside is pickup time-- if it's hard for you to get to the pickup location between 3 and 6:30 on Thursday, this CSA might not be for you (although as I mentioned, you can get the delivery option.)

                          1. re: Chris VR

                            Thanks for the info. I will say, that I like all sorts of vegatables, though not everyone in my fmaily does. But, like yoi, I think it may be fun to have to find recipes for things I don't cook that often. And it is understandable that sometimes the produce will ot be great- as a matter of fact, the only place I bought ANY peaches last summer was on the Outer BAnks of NC. They were so outrageously great that I stopped at the local farm stand the night before we were leaving and bought lots of them.
                            I will have to give this some thought. Thanks for the input

                            1. re: macca

                              BTW you can get just a fruit share (or just a veg share). This will mean you won't get anything at all for a few weeks in the summer, when there's nothing coming in from the farmers.

                              You can also go in on a share with someone else (usually people do this with a family, not a single, share) and it might work out that you can get the other person to take what you don't want.

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                Will definitely look into it. Thanks. And, BTW- you should make a trek to Wilsons some time. I can make it there and back to Melrose in an hour. And, they have activities sometimes. In the spring, I brought my neice and nephew ( 3and 5) their petting zoo, and then they made a sand bottle thingy. Great fun. And there scones are really good.

                      2. Are any South Shore folks part of a CSA? I've been looking into joining one and wondered what's available?

                        Thanks!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                          I was just thinking the same thing -- the idea of a CSA is really intriguing, and more often than not I'm working during our local farmer's market hours.

                          1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                            Not sure if this constitutes South Shore or not (sorry, I'm new to Boston!) - but take a look at Plato's Harvest:
                            http://platosharvest.com/web-content/...

                            They come highly recommended from a friend of mine who helps run Slow Food Boston.

                            1. re: jdubboston

                              I didn't participate in the Plato's Harvest CSA, but I bought from them at the Harvard farmer's market and was very pleased with the quality of their produce. Their selection was usually quite small though.

                        2. We had Bay End, with a Porter Square pickup last summer. Really enjoyed the quality and variety, esp. given the difficult growing conditions last summer. The loaf of Iggy's bread was a nice addition, as was the little bunch of flowers. And their newsletter with preparation ideas was excellent, I cooked several items just as they suggested and they were terrific.

                          1. I was a part of Busa 2 years ago. They where close by (lexington/arlington line) (non-certified) organic and fair. With pick your own beans, basil, & other herbs, and tomatos.

                            Can anyone comment on the Farm School? They have a Tuesday pick up at Iggy's, are $600/share. Any other organic ones I am missing?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: salty

                              Try Plato's Harvest: http://platosharvest.com/web-content/...

                              Not sure if they've updated their website for 'o7, but it looks like they have drop offs in Porter Sq and Somerville.

                            2. Thanks so much!

                              That looks great!

                              1. I've been a member of CSAs in the Boston area now for about 14 years. Having got some excellent veggies (what perfectly fabulous carrots!) from our winter share in Belmont 2 years in a row, we asked about getting a 2008 summer share from the same place. The winter share is actually from 3 farms: Belmont CSA, Vanguarden CSA in Dover, and Picadilly Farm in NH (source of the carrots). Gretta, the Belmont farmer, is amazing: she grows a ton of absolutely beautiful produce on her 1 acre in Belmont. She really knows what she is doing and is very conscientious about communicating with shareholders. She provided a wealth of information about proper storage of each vegetable as well as some recipes and cooking demo/tasting events at Kitchen on Common in Belmont. And Gretta learned alot of what she knows from the folks at Vanguarden and Picadilly. The summer shares from Belmont are sold out, but you can sign up now for the winter share. And what else is really exciting is Piccadilly is offering summer shares delivered to several locations in the Belmont area. At a reasonable $450 for June into October, they are offering some fruit, a lot of the basics like lettuces and tomatoes and carrots!, and a nice helping of less common but exciting vegetables like fennel. I've been a member at several different farms and am a regular at farmers markets and visiting other CSAs, but I'm going for Picadilly this year. Jenny has been the farm manager for years at non-profit CSA farms and now she and her husband Bruce are making a go of it at their very own place. It is often the case that signing up at a new CSA means you'll have to deal with the new farm's learning curve, but I don't have to worry in this case: I can support a new farm AND enjoy excellent produce from experienced and knowledgeable farmers.

                                To check out the Belmont winter share, go to the Belmont CSA on localharvest.org

                                To check out the summer share at Picadilly Farm, go to http://www.picadillyfarm.com/belmont.php

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: janieh

                                  Picadilly Farm was the primary supplier for Farm Direct Co-op (Melrose, Salem, Marblehead, http://www.farmdirectcoop.org/) in 2007 and I was very pleased with the produce this year. We were worried we'd be compromising since it was their first year running their own farm like this, but the produce last year was better than we've had in previous years. I'd highly recommend them.

                                2. Just signed up for a half-share with Stone Soup Farms. $225-$275 seems like a good price and pick-up was right by my work on South Street so that was a plus.

                                  I will post back once it starts up to let everyone know how it is.

                                  1. I seem to remember a link to all the Greater Boston CSA's. I live in Dorchester, and am looking for a pick-up location close by. Any suggestions?

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: deirdeir

                                      The Food Project CSA has a pick-up in JP, and they also do a twice weekly farmstand at Dudley Town Common in Roxbury. Check them out:
                                      http://thefoodproject.org/
                                      They grow much of their veggies in urban gardens (organically, no less)throughout the Dudley area and also have a few acres of farm land in Lincoln. So, it's really local. And they have an awesome program that connects urban youth to the land in their neighborhood and gets them excited about growing healthy, yummy food. You can volunteer to work the land if you want, but it's not a requirement of the CSA. A full share costs $450 from June-October. They also have a winter CSA that runs into December, but you have to pick that up in Lincoln, I believe. I think they offer a fruit share as well.

                                      Other CSAs with pick-ups near Dorchester -
                                      Stillman's Farm has a CSA pick-up at the JP farmer's market
                                      Revision House Urban Farm in Dorchester has a farmer's market and CSA, though not sure of the details. The website isn't up to date: http://www.vpi.org/Re-VisionFarm/csa....
                                      They're another good cause - a homeless shelter/urban farm in conjunction with Drumlin Farm in Lincoln.

                                      I highly recommend The Food Project for quality and variety of foods. I found Stillman's to be a lot of the stuff they couldn't sell at the farm stand, and the Revision House just didn't provide a lot of food, but that was a few years ago, so it may have improved since then.

                                      1. re: estreitfeld

                                        I don't agree with the statement "I found Stillman's to be a lot of the stuff they couldn't sell at the farm stand." I've been a Stillman's member for eight years, and have not found that to be the case at all.

                                        At JP they run a stand and the CSA pickup simultaneously, and it's true that there's more variety of produce at the farm stand, but the CSA boxes are not made up of leftovers. (For one thing, they're pre-packed separately before either pickup or the farm stand are open, so how could they be made up of what didn't sell?)

                                        1. re: estreitfeld

                                          "I found Stillman's to be a lot of the stuff they couldn't sell at the farm stand"

                                          What on earth are you talking about?

                                          1. re: estreitfeld

                                            I can't comment directly on estreitfeld's observation about Stillman's, nor do I have any experience with Stillman's myself, but I can offer my own experience in what may be a similar vein.

                                            I was a csa member a couple of years back and the place (which shall go unnamed) had a wholesale business as well. There were *numerable* cases where the wholesale customers got the best of the crop while the csa was given the items that were not saleable for a variety of reasons. I can't tell you how miffed I was when several weeks running I saw bags and bags of full sized, beautiful onions waiting to go out to the wholesale customers while the csa was given the small (though not small enough to be pearl sized), painful to peel onions that were pretty obviously "leftovers". We also seemed to get the spotty tomatoes (very few of them at that) as well as various other items that were just not quite perfect enough to sell. We got plenty of good stuff too, and the produce was delicious, but there was a pretty clear conflict of interest in this setup.

                                            I don't know if this is what was meant in the previous post - just thought I'd throw this out there as a possible explanation?

                                            1. re: lisa13

                                              Having been a Stillman's CSA member for many years now, I assure you that if anything, the stuff in the CSA boxes is BETTER than what's on sale at the farm stand, with many things that never end up on sale at the farm stand at all. That's why I don't understand what this person is talking about.

                                        2. does anyone have any information on the Dover Farm, on 5 Edgewater Drive. They are offering 75 shares for $650 from the end of May to October. There website is limited so i assuming this is there first year. Any know anything about them, or have experience with any other CSA's in the metrowest area. Thanks

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: mkap21

                                            We did Revision a few years ago and it was decent but not stunning. Parker does a great one, and particularly for a full share would have a great variety of stuff. (And that is even though I think that restaurants get first pick, then CSA then Farmers market.) Now we do Stillman's (due to pickup location) and they do a good job, and usually include one or two choices which lets you tune stuff a bit, and since. They now have a Quincy pickup (at the farmers market) which is very handy, and only them and Brookwood community farm CSA do pickups near Quincy.
                                            Farmers market pickups are nice because you can buy extra stuff that you want.

                                          2. FYI--Red Fire is already sold out for 2008. <sob>