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[MSP] CSA's in the Twin Cities

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I love love love the St. Paul Farmers market and my local co-op. Still, I think I'd like to take it one step further and actually buy a share in a local CSA this summer.

~Has anyone here had any experience with any of the CSA's in the Twin Cities?
~If so, which one(s)?
~What did you think of the quality of the produce, the variety of the produce and general overall reliability?
~Did you like the recipes that came with the weekly newsletter (assuming, of course, there was a weekly newsletter?)
~Did they offer any other special services/opportunities you thought were helpful?

I've been a member of a CSA before so, I'm not asking for general information about CSAs (I know about the pitfalls, for instance, of getting nothing but baskets of strawberries for weeks on end, etc. and eating strawberries until you're sick of them); rather, I'm seeking information about the quality of the produce and your overall experience with specific Twin Cities CSA's.

Thanks in advance!

~TDQ

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  1. We belonged to BC Gardens (http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M5396) last year. We chose them specifically because they had home delivery vs. picking your share up at a drop off spot, plus they offered a couples share and organic coffee delivery. I believe the price for the couples share came to be about equal to a family share that you would pick up yourself, because of the home delivery.

    I really enjoyed getting our weekly delivery. I thought the quality of the produce was fantastic. Of course some weeks you got an eggplant the size of well, an egg, but other weeks we got beautiful heirloom tomatoes, spicy greens mixes, etc. I enjoyed the weekly newsletter more for the descriptions of the unusual veggies. I then would usually do an Epicurous search for recipes.

    I'll admit, we probably gave away or threw out 1/3-1/2 of what we got. It was just too much for a couple that eats out/travels a lot during the summer. I think we'll do it again when we have kids and want to expose them to a lot of locally grown veggies.

    1. I'm interested to see where this thread goes. I investigated this a bit last year, and was leaning toward Harmony Valley. http://www.harmonyvalleyfarm.com/csa.php

      It seemed quite expensive. In our household there are only two of us; however, I cook very nearly every day, and my boyfriend eats more than anyone I've ever seen, and I think we could have easily eaten a family box every week. When it came down to it, I decided that it was more practical to stick with the produce that comes out of my own garden, and to try to make it to the farmer's market more frequently. I'd really like to participate in a CSA mostly for the reason that I think it's a great cause to support, but for me, there are more economical ways of getting local produce.

      1. Here's the discussion from a few years ago: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/121770

        4 Replies
        1. re: Danny

          Thank you, Danny. I saw that thread and thought that was very helpful in a general way. Unfortunately, only one person in that thread mentioned the name of a specific CSA. There are dozens to choose from in the Twin Cities, and it's a major commitment, often around $500, so I was hoping to get some more specific --and current-- information about people's experiences.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I joined a CSA for the first time for this coming growing season - the one I picked was Double Rabbit Farm, for various reasons - the main ones being location (pickup is at Midtown Market, in my neighborhood) and the overall philosophy of the farmers ( their website is http://www.doublerabbitfarm.com/CSA.html ). You might have seen them last fall in the Strib, where there was a feature about their heirloom pumpkins. Since this will be my first year, I can't speak yet to the experience, but I am SO looking forward to spring and all the fresh veg that will be coming my way!

            1. re: egusto

              Sounds like a wonderful choice--it certainly does seem like a good value. Do keep us posted on how it goes for you. Unfortunately,if I'm reading the info on their site correctly, they don't seem to have a drop site in St. Paul.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I will certainly report back when the time comes. You are correct, their only drop site is at the Midtown Market in Minneapolis - none in St. Paul. Speaking of value, last fall they were offering a 10% discount for shares purchased by December - I bought my half share in advance for $ 295.

                -Eric

        2. Our family has subscribed to Hog's Back Farms for two years. We love the CSA and find the produce excellent, the newsletter very informative and entertaining (particularly his Farmer Complaint Index) and the recipes simple, delicious and healthy. We are definitely coming back for a third year and always add the winter share with it's squash, beets and such.

          They can be found at www.hogsbackfarm.com and you can see some examples of their weekly reports there.

          1. While I haven't subscribed to a CSA before, I have friends who did so through Cooks of Crocus Hill for produce, turkeys, etc. They enjoyed the experience. You could check out their website for the names of the farms they work with.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dahlsk

              Hey, great tip, although what Cooks of Crocus Hill does is just a "once per season" kind of thing, as opposed to weekly like the more traditional CSA. They call it "crop shares"--For spring this year, they are offering baby salad mix and morel mushrooms. I just called and was going to subscribe to the morels, but they are already sold out. Bummer. Next year, I'll be earlier.

              http://www.cooksofcrocushill.com/Page...

              LHoff and Kate--that is exactly the type of feedback I was looking for, so thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm still interested in hearing from others, of course! Thank you again!

              ~TDQ

            2. FYI - I think there is a waiting list for Hog's Back - I checked it out last year & I'm still on the list and waiting eagerly to find out if I make the cut.

              There is one at Coastal Seafoods as well - they have the sign up - I'm not 100% sure on what you get & where it comes from & I think perhaps its a lot of fruit? I'm not sure.

              I really liked HBF since they have some events that I could bring the kids out to and learn about the farm.

              2 Replies
              1. re: St Paul Susie

                Susie, I don't see anything on Coastal Seafoods website about the CSA. Can you tell me a bit more about that so I can follow up a bit more?

                http://www.coastalseafoods.com/index.php

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  TDQ - I will ask next time I'm in there (which could be today!) - I asked about it last year and they didn't have an overwhelming amt of info. But the sign/poster is up for 2007.....
                  SPS

              2. I subscribed to Harmony Valley Farm's CSA last year and I was happy with the quality, variety and amount of produce that came in each box. There are only two people in our household, so we chose the every other week option, which worked quite well. I was specifically looking for a CSA that delivered a sampling of more unusual varieties of vegetables, so the ramps, sunchokes, watercress, burdock root, amaranth, and green garlic drew me in. There was always just enough of the unusual stuff to try out a recipe or two...I never felt overwhelmed by it. The melons and watermelon were especially fine eating. The subscription is not the cheapest, but the delivery season is very long-from May until December, which is wonderful if you like root vegetables (and I do).
                The recipes in the newsletter were helpful...mostly easy and tasty.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Quince

                  Quince, this is terrific info indeed. Harmony Valley seems to have both a "produce" share and a "fruit program." You mention melons and watermelons. Did you have to subscribe to both the "produce" and the "fruit" or did the melons and watermelons come with your regular produce share?

                  http://www.harmonyvalleyfarm.com

                  Also, I see they also do a coffee share and offer Graziers's organic beef. Any experience with those, or did you just stick with the produce?

                  EDIT: ah ha! I think I've answered my own question about the melons by looking at this document on their site http://www.harmonyvalleyfarm.com/vegp... that lists the produce (including vegetables and various fruits such as berries and melongs) that make up the "produce share." It seems that the "produce" share is entirely locally raised whereas the "fruit" share comes from all over the country.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I subscribed to the summer fruit share as well as the produce share, but I'm not signing up for the fruit again this year. It was mostly the same organic fruit you would find at your local co-op, except you couldn't pick it yourself, so there were always some bruised peaches or mealy apricots...although some things were of excellent quality (cherries, pluots), and there was an occasional locally grown surprise, like a pint of crabapples. It might be a deal for someone who insists on all organic fruit. I was hoping for mostly fruits sourced in the Midwest from small farmers, like stone fruit from Michigan, but much of the fruit came from California, and a few varieties were grown as far away as Mexico. I probably didn't read the description carefully enough before plunking down my cash.
                    I haven't tried the coffee or beef. And yes, you are correct, the melons, berries and watermelon were raised locally and came with the produce share.

                    1. re: Quince

                      Thanks for all that info! Very helpful. I agree that the fruit share doesn't seem that helpful, really, if you've got access to a good co-op or the farmers markets as most uf us in the Twin Cities do. To me the idea of the CSA is to support a local farm, not just about acquiring the food. If the fruit is coming from all over, it doesn't really fit with my personal objectives.

                      ~TDQ

                2. harmony valley is good. also really like loon organics, the couple who work off of the diffleys' gardens of eagen spread, although they are strictly organic veggies, not fruit, and they frequently have a waiting list. i don't know about this summer. they also have a website, i believe, accessable from the gardens of eagen one. the quality of their produce is very high.

                  also, there is a new meat csa that is year-round and a joint effort of several local farmers. i don't know if you are interested in info on this or not.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    We have our own direct connections for pork and beef (thanks to the miracles of the deep freezer), but you might post the info on the meat CSA for the benefit of others. Also, I'd be curious about sources for poultry, I suppose.

                    It sounds like you're familiar with the produce at Harmony Valley and Loon Organics; do you have any specific thoughts about the logistics of the way they run the CSA program itself, reliability etc.?

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I haven't actually done a csa in the tc area, but can speak to the quality of these farms' produce because whenever it is available, my company buys it by the case because of local origin and very high quality. their logistics should be on their websites, which i feel like a bit of a dink for not looking up and posting: here you go

                      http://www.loonorganics.com
                      http://www.harmonyvalleyfarm.com

                      laura and adam from loon organics participate in the mill city farmers market in the summer, so picking up your box downtown mpls each week should be no prob-- they also drop at several local co-ops i believe. i would assume harmony valley would have pickup at the markets they participate in (close to their WI farm) and do a drop-off at one or two TC locations.

                      info about the TC meat csa, for those interested, are available from Mike at
                      sunshineharvestfarm@hotmail.com

                    2. re: soupkitten

                      Would love to know about the meat CSA if you have any information. Thanks

                    3. My mother and I joined Spring Hill Community Farm 10 years ago. http://www.springhillcommunityfarm.com/
                      We split a share with another family and still it was too much to keep up with. Mom is now long gone and knowing there's no way I could use everything they'd send my way, I just use Linden Hills and in the summer I add in the Mpls Farmer's Market.

                      I do remember the highlights. In the spring they start out deliveries with hot house greens. Tender, delicious, a joy. The Brussels spouts were so perfectly beautiful I've never had their equal. Who knew there could be such a difference in a baked potato recently unearthed? Fluffy, yet creamy and sweet. Ooh and the tomatoes. Oh my yes, the tomatoes. Damn, I miss all those things.

                      With Spring Hill one needs to commit to at least one day at the farm. I brought my brother who was visiting at the time and we had a blast and were both so impressed with the farm and even more impressed with Patty Wright and Michael Racette. Nicer folks are not to be found.

                      So, aside from the astounding amount of produce heaped on a share holder I think you see how highly I esteem Spring Hill Community Farm. Ooh, and sometimes they send flowers, too!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MplsM ary

                        Oh, that sounds just lovely, M ary, thank you, it certainly does sound like the ideal experience. On the one hand, a day at the farm seems like a nuisance, but, on the other hand, what a wonderful way to get grounded (pun intended, of course) and feel that much more connected to the food you eat. And how lovely that they surprise you with flowers on occasion.

                        ~TDQ

                      2. Splitting a CSA share with someone is a great idea if you can find someone to do it with. Another option is finding a CSA that will do a half share or every other week share. Here's a link that provides little blurbs on all the local CSA's--if someone doesn't take you up on your offer to split, perhaps you might peruse this list and see if you can't find a half share that suits you! Good luck!

                        http://www.landstewardshipproject.org...

                        ~TDQ

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          great list.

                        2. For two years I have split a CSA share with a friend from Foxtail Farms out of Osceola WI. I love it! It's a ton of fresh, organic produce for the money.

                          For what it's worth, two summers ago, my friend split a Hogsback Farm share with someone else. She prefers the Foxtail boxes (more produce, delivers to your home being the largest things).

                          The Foxtail newsletters are cute. A nice update about what is happening on the farm and a few recipes. They have two events a year where people can go to the farm. I went to the fall event one year and there was a pig roast and pot luck with hayrides out to a pumpkin patch for free pumpkins. The 7-y.o. city kid I brought thought the whole experience was fantastic.

                          1. Last year I started ordering from Whole Farm Coop. (http://www.wholefarmcoop.com/) I was very pleased with them. They deliver to several locations (one of which is only blocks from where I live). The produce was always tasty.

                            You can order off their website and you pick only what you want, from meat to fruit and veg to other misc. items. The amount to be delivered is listed on the website (as well as the producer). This was a boon as I live at home and did not want to be overwhelmed with too much food that I could not finish.

                            I really like the 'veggie bags'. You order by amount $10, 15 or 20. And they deliver whatever they're overstocked on. So I got some of the surprise of a traditional CSA, but without toooo much food.

                            1. I have subscribed to Big Woods Farm in Nerstrand (also with pickup option in Minneapolis) for 8 years, and really enjoy it. No work is required on the farm, but they host a number of festive days (eg. winter squash harvest in the fall) which are fun and involve work and a potluck. The produce is great and Laurie and David Hougen-Eitzman, who own the farm, are terrifically nice. Last summer they started a collaboration with Shepherd's Way Farms and offered a sheep cheese share option along with the farm share, which was great! I can't recommend them highly enough.

                              Some info about Big Woods Farm is available at this URL:
                              http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M4652

                              Information about Shepherds Way Farms is here:
                              http://www.shepherdswayfarms.com/

                              1. Since this thread was created I've been longing for some CSA goodness. I've researched the Land Stewardship Project page (which I've looked at longingly every year for years now) and I came across this wonderful oddity: Rare by Nature: http://www.rarebynature.com/wst_page4...

                                What an interesting concept!

                                "How Our CSA Works...

                                Our agriculture is Community Supported Agriculture - with a very different twist - we are Your Personal Farmers. You have your own personal garden space on our farm, with your own personal plant selections, tended by your own Personal Farmers"! Our CSA approach lets you have your 'carrot' cake and eat it too! "

                                That seems like a very cool and totally impractical idea. Therefore I'm all for it, of course. I'm going to do a little research on this and I'll report back with what I find. Oh my, I'm simply giddy with the possibilities this could offer. Of course I'd have to get at least one like minded person to go in with me but somehow a totally customized CSA would just be so, uh, almost feudal, in of course the grooviest way.