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Tell me about your CSA

I'm almost at the end of the CSA season here (upstate New York) and already missing my weekly bag! I'm curious how things are other places - please share info on your CSA. How long does the season last? How much do you get? How much variety is there? What do you like/hate about using a CSA? What do you pay?

Our farm distributes bags to several pick up sites (I go to a spot in my town). We start in late June and go to early November. We get a full brown paper grocery bag each week. It's a real mix - mostly vegetables, a few fruits and a small amount of herbs most weeks. There are usually ten to twelve different things in the bag. We pay $375.

Thanks for sharing!

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  1. Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know this...*blush* what is CSA?

    1. Community Supported Agriculture. You buy a "share," and get stuff all season.

      I paid about $200. Got a big box of stuff every Friday. Early in the season when there wasn't a whole lot in the garden, we got a dozen eggs and some baked goods to round it out.

      Overall the quality of the stuff was good, but I thought it was too much for just two of us. This was the first year we'd been in it, and the first year they had done it, so it was a learning process. I suggested that she offer a couple of options: I'd have cheerfully accepted fewer veggies and a dozen eggs each week (they have chickens there and sell their eggs at the farmer's market).

      Another thing I would have liked was to have gotten a whole box of cucumbers one week instead of four or five cucumbers each week they were available. We don't really eat all that many cucumbers (again, just two of us; three for a couple weeks in July when Mike's grandson was here), but I like to make pickles. We never did really have enough to do that.

      Next year I'll know more what to expect, and maybe plan a little better. This year I let a lot of stuff go to waste because I just plain didn't know what to do with it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: revsharkie

        aaah thank you for the explanation. Sounds like an excellent idea. I don't know of anything like that here...we shop the Farmer's Market in order to buy from Alberta/BC/Sask producers. There is a service called S.P.U.D. (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery) who specialize in delivering organic groceries but I'm not sure all the food is local but they do offer different sized baskets.

        1. re: gourmethunter

          Here's a couple links for finding CSA's. The first includes some Canadian ones.
          http://www.biodynamics.com/canada.html
          http://www.localharvest.org/
          dave

          1. re: davebough

            Speaking of Canadian ones. This year was my first time joining a CSA, and being in Montreal there were quite a few to choose from. The one I had was called Les Jardins de Tessa, for about CAD 300 from April to October. The quantity was good for two people who love vegetables, although the variety varies from one basket to another (usually 5-10 different things), so sometimes I really need to do extra shopping to make a meal.

            The quality and price are reasonable (although not necessarily cheaper than *imported* produce), and the best part is, they are local AND organic. Oh, and what I like is, they allow you to swap one type of produce for another if you want.

        2. re: revsharkie

          We've had the same problem - if there were more of one item at a time we could put it up. But I think most people don't like to freeze or can and are happy to get enough for one meal. I do freeze what I can since frozen orgainc in the winter is so expensive.

          BTW Revsharkie - how long is your season?

          1. re: lupaglupa

            this year it was mid-June through mid-October. We had a very cold spring; they were hoping to start earlier but it didn't work out, and then we had a pretty early frost, too.

        3. I paid $600 for a "gourmet" share. Half share (2 adults) was $450. My gourmet share was supposed to get me a more interesting selection and a couple of extra items. But sometimes it seemed to mean extra zuchini and potatoes!

          I loved it, but it was just too much veg for us. I tried to go to a more plant-based diet, but I found that meant I spent more time cooking & preparing, yet was hungry all the time! That said I do think I ate more veggies overall.

          I never thought I'd be sick of mixed baby greens, but I am. And I miss rapini!

          Since a farmer's market has since opened in my area, featuring my CSA farm among others, it'll be tough to decide whether to do it next year. Overall a great experience though we'd get a smaller box next time. I gave a lot away and a few things just rotted.

          http://www.planborganicfarms.ca

          1. I recently joined a Meat CSA in the Boston area. It is $70/month for 10lbs. half of the selection is prime cuts the other is made up of things like ground meats/bacon products. Also, the have sausage too. There is beef, lamb, pork and chicken. Untill recently, I have not been a big meat eater and had sworn of hamburgers compleatly. With the CSA meat, I now love hamburgers again and can taste the difference in all the meals. I very much enjoy supporting local farming and as all chowhounds I love good food.

            8 Replies
            1. re: 2peasinapod

              That sounds awesome - do you have a link or know where I can go for more info? Thanks!

              1. re: erican

                Here's the meat CSA I belong to (and helped jumpstart): http://houdefamilyfarm.com/index_file...

                I pay $125/month (on a 6 month cycle) for a 20 pound share of beef, pork and veal. Across the 6 months it's been about 50% "cheaper" cuts and the rest better stuff. I started with a 10 pound share @$65/month but found I was going through the meat vey quickly and increased my share to 20 pounds, which also allows me to get bigger cuts like roasts.

                If you like the ides, I urge you to consider trying to set up your own. I heard of a farmer in Vermont who was looking for an outlet in the Boston area, and I called him to see if he would consider delivering to my town once per month. He was interested and I gave him input on how he could structure it. I worked to find him a location for his "depot" and his pickup hours coincide with the produce CSA I belong to. I also sent a note out to my produce CSA letting people know about it, and sent a press release to a few local papers. He's up to about 30 members after 6 months.

                The meat is head and shoulders above what I had bought before from Wild Oats (or anywhere else). The pork is Tamworth breed, which is incredibly flavorful. And now that I've gotten used to the taste of grass fed beef, I love it. I don't make cheeseburgers anymore because I never want to mask the taste of the meat! The sausage and bacon we've received has been phenomenal and although I was not a veal eater before this, I'm really enjoying the veal we've received.

                I also love knowing where my meat comes from, and know that it's being treated humanely and respectfully, and not being treated with hormones. Because there's no distribution channel, the farmer gets all the profit, and with a confirmed income stream, he can better plan his purchasing and growing cycles.

                As with any CSA, it's a "you get what you get" situation. It's harder to do menu planning, and I've been forced to be more creative with cuts I'm not used to buying. But I actually like that- it's making me be a better cook, and its forcing me to crack open some cookbooks I haven't used before.

                If you're interested and want any advice, drop me an email, my address is in my profile.

                1. re: Chris VR

                  Thanks so much for the information! This sounds great - it is just what I am looking for.

                  1. re: erican

                    I notice from your other posts that you're in the Boston area- other local CSAs with pickup points in the Boston area are Chestnut Farms (http://www.chestnutfarms.org/) and Stillman Farm (http://www.stillmansfarm.com/). Good luck! I joined the CSA just after I finished reading Omnivore's Dilemma, which was lucky timing, because if I hadn't joined a Meat CSA, I'd probably have had to go off it altogether after reading that book.

                    Other local meat farmers I've heard good things about are Blood Farm in Groton (no website AFAIK, no CSA either, just retail from the farm, here's a recent thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/382673) and Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds in Concord (www.peteandjensbackyardbirds.com) (also no CSA AFAIK, but they do seem to take advance orders, based on what their website seems to say.

                    )

                    Any way you look at it, I really feel it's worth the extra effort to search out these small farmer's meats if you care about the way your meat is raised, and, more importantly for Chowhounds, if you care how it tastes!

                    1. re: erican

                      I chose to use Chestnut Farms (http://www.chestnutfarms.org/) based on thier pick-up location. Kim (one of the farmers) is great and very knowlegable about her products.
                      I can not speak highly enough of the quality of the meat.

                2. re: 2peasinapod

                  omg i would love a meat csa. any one know of one in phx? :D

                  1. re: winedubar

                    winedubar - my farm (in Mass) does sell meat in addition to summer and winter vegetable shares. They have a farm store where you can get locally-produced cheese, yogurt, pickles, bread, eggs, and meat (they also have a few meat sales throughout the summer season for which you have to sign up), You could try to find out whether regular CSAs carry meat at their stores (if they have one).

                    Other farms in my area seem to follow this trend: in addition to delivery, they have a 'farm store' that they try to make a 'one-stop-for-all-your-organic-grocery-needs'. I would be curious to see if this happens elsewhere as well.

                  2. We have 2 CSAs - a summer one that runs from early June until Thanksgiving and a winter one that starts in December and runs thru March. I work relatively close to the farm, so I go to the farm store for my weekly pick-up (where it's mostly mix-and-match). This gives me more flexibility (i.e., I choose to take more broccoli one week, but no carrots; arugula, but not swiss chard, etc.; I also find that I can reduce waste this way - I only take what I think we need for the week/what I decided I would freeze for later). I also get to do u-pick (aside from herbs, we've had raspberries and green beans in the past 3 weeks). We don't get much fruit (except strawberries in June and raspberries in the fall), but otherwise, the variety is incredible - can't complain.

                    The winter share is mostly root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, etc.); the pick-up is every other week (rather than every week). Overall, we feel fortunate with our farm shares and have appreciated them tremendously over the years.

                    http://www.brookfieldfarm.org/

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jeni1002

                      We belong to chick-a-biddy acres (http://www.chickabiddyacres.com) CSA, which has pick ups in Toronto, their farm and at the Peterborough farmer's market (where we pick it up). The cost is $350 for a half share for organic veggies. We belonged to a different CSA several years ago when we lived west of the GTA. It's hard to comment on this particular year because the spring was cold and wet which then lead into a very hot and record dry year. That is the risk that you take with a CSA; crap weather can mean not so much stuff and it can also mean a lot of some veggies and very few of another. On the other hand, the thing we love about our CSA is that it is very good of breaking you out of any cooking ruts - if you get something you've never had before the challenge is one to find a way to cook and enjoy it (fellow chows were quite handy when I was confronted with spring turnip for the first time in my life).