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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.

          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.


          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.


                    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).

                    2. We've belonged to about 5, in different places in the US. This year, we paid $450 I think, for a whole share in the Midwest. We always get waaay too much lettuce for my taste (rabbit food), but other than that -- we get a big (1 or 1.5 bushel, I can't remember) box a week. We also supplement with the garden and the farmer's market. We eat a lot of veggies though. We don't get much "gourmet" stuff, but we did get parsnips and celeraic. Our season goes from mid-June to mid-October. I sure miss it already!
                      (and I'd kill for a meat share or a real winter share here, but nothing grows much at 20 below!)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: gridder

                        A friend of mine says in the spring when it's mostly greens he puts half the bag in the compost bin. I love lettuce but it is a lot to eat two heads a week.

                        1. re: lupaglupa

                          The first few weeks of our CSA season this year we got FOUR heads of lettuce a week, along with about a quart of radishes. I can eat a few radishes, but Mike doesn't like them, so that's a lot of radishes for us.

                          1. re: revsharkie

                            I found a recipe for radish tzatziki that was a huge hit with everyone who tried it. (Basically, just sub in radish for the cuke. No garlic.)

                          2. re: lupaglupa

                            Wow. Sometimes in the spring I eat 2 heads a DAY. Of course in August and September I have zukes and toms 3 times a day and I don't mind because it's so fresh and good. It's been a great opportunity to push my creativity in the kitchen. Me and my SO have a 1/2 share that I supplement with my own garden and the Farmer's Market. I have to take on all kale and chard duty (and I've learned to love it), but he'll eat anything else if I prepare it.

                            We don't have a meat share here (MSP) that I know of, but we bought quarter beef and half hog and put in our chest freezer.

                            Both meat and veg have been learning experiences, working with stuff I wouldn't normally buy at the grocery store. We've found some new favorites this way, and it almost helps me rationalize all the new cookbooks I've bought.

                        2. I was a member of the Fox Creek Farms CSA in the cap district. I think we paid a little over $400 for a season from May - October. I think it was worth it, as it worked out to around $20 per week for tons of fresh, organic veggies that had amazing flavor. If we had tried to buy as many vegetables per week, it would have been easily $30 or more in store.
                          That said, the beginning of the season was a lot of lettuces, so we had a lot of salads. It took about a month and a half before we started getting anything really substantial, but once it did... woah baby! It definitely helped us eat tons of veggies, and I loved trying new things and being kind of forced to learn to like things I might be picky about so I didn't waste food. I picked them up once a week and picked out my own amounts while someone supervised.

                          1. Here's my produce CSA: http://farmdirectcoop.org/ All the produce is organic/IPM and sourced from local farmers. It's delivered once a week to 3 local depots, where the members go to pick up their shares. We get more choice than some do- for example we'll be told we can take 4 "units" (usually a pound or a bunch) and there will be 8 or so choices. Besides fruit and vegetables, we get honey, jam, syrup and apple cider (unpasteurized, yay!). They also offer a cheese share and a herb share. We can choose a "single" or a "family" share. I pay $180 for my single vegetable share and $130 for my single fruit share.

                            Our regular season runs from mid-late June (whenever the New England weather cooperates enough) to mid-late October, plus we have the option of "extended season" which is 2 larger pickups in November. They've also offered a "winter share" in December which is root vegetables, apples, cranberries and greenhouse-grown produce. We also have the option of bulk-ordering additional produce.

                            I've been a member for 5 years and it's changed the way I eat. It's introduced me to vegetables I'd never bought before- chard, kale, delicata squash, kohlrabi. There probably is about 15% wastage- stuff I just don't get around to cooking before it goes bad (although I get these Green Disks from Bed Bath and Beyond which really make a difference in extending the life of my produce.) I also like knowing it's grown with no (or minimal) pesticides and I'm supporting local farmers.

                            1. I have been getting a half share at my CSA (Greenview Farm in RI) for the last 5 years. This year's cost was $375. We get to choose our own share each week, which really cuts down on the waste. I, too, wish we had the option of getting cannable (?) quantities of fresh veggies - I'd be willing to pay more for that. I started my own home garden just to be able to grow enough cukes for pickles and tomatoes for salsa. The season runs from mid-June to mid-October and Craig holds a plant sale the two middle weekends in May.

                              I love the CSA. The variety of veggies has driven me to expand my cooking repertoire. My kids get to see exactly where their food comes from, which has cut down on the food refusals and "blecch"s. Pick up is convenient. The people there are fabulous. I wish the season ran longer and it would be great to be able to get my meats there, too. I love the idea of a meat CSA! Does anyone know of one in southern RI?

                              1 Reply
                              1. We're just finishing up our first year with ours http://kretschmannfarm.com/ I believe our small box (they have three sizes, and you can also go down to a small box every other week) was $500 for 25 weeks, which seems like more than some of the others. The season goes the last week in May until Thanksgiving.

                                We did/do have options to buy up larger quantities of some items. In blueberry season we bought a flat of blueberries (12 pints) and froze most of them. We also bought 1/2 bushel of basil and got really sick of making pesto base and freezing that. ;-) In late season there are apples and we bought 1/2 bushel of those a few weeks back as well.

                                Early season had strawberries as well as the early greens, plus in the first week a loaf of bread to round out the box. We get not just lettuce but also a mesclun mix (some in spring, some in fall), spinach, etc. Great tomatoes during that season, tomatillos, cilantro and jalepeno at the same time, perfect for salsa! Garlic has come too, dill, basil, Thai basil a couple of weeks, lots of zucchini and carrots at times, potatoes and winter squash and apples right now, broccoli, fennel, all kinds of stuff. Many of these things have been new that we've never bought before, and going to pick up the box each week is like opening up a surprise gift in some ways (although the newsletter we receive in the email usually gives some of it away).

                                Everything is organic or nearly so, and if you want strictly organic you can tell them to ensure you only get stuff that is grown that way. In the past they had a neighbor with chicken available, but that didn't work out this year. The blueberries come from a nearby farm, some of the apples are from a different farm, and at the end of the year now we've been offered some goat's milk cheese from another friend of theirs (it's pretty good, we got some on Friday). To try to ensure you don't get stuff you won't eat they keep a "never eat" list for each subscriber. There's also a likes list, but the never eat is key, they really try to keep those out of the box. It doesn't always work: we've had beets a couple times, cauliflower once or twice, and cabbage once or twice, all of which are on our list. Sometimes we dumped it into another box, and one time recently when someone else was picking up his box, I just asked him if he wanted extra cauliflower and gave him what was in ours. So it's not perfect, but it does cut down on the wastage for sure. The rest of it amounts to how fast can we get through it and/or do we feel like eating this stuff right now? All in all, we've done pretty well, throwing out not much more than we might have just in regular shopping, and our produce bill outside of the box went down to almost nothing during the season.

                                In general it's a great idea. Each CSA is going to be a little different so you may have to just try it and see if the format works for you.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: CrazyOne

                                  I can't imagine the headache for them of keeping track of who hates what! I suppose I'd be fine with no more radishes (although after several years of complaints our farmer grows and sends fewer) but I'm glad to get the things I wouldn't normally choose. It forces me to eat more variety and to try new and different things. Although I still haven't tackled this years parsley roots....

                                  1. re: CrazyOne

                                    Wow, what a considerate CSA! I wonder if the things on your 'hate' list that end up in your box get there because another member wasn't in the mood to eat them. I'm picturing your poor cauliflower getting passed from box to box with the best of intentions.

                                    1. re: CrazyOne

                                      Speaking of who hates what. I managed to turn around 3 people this summer who claimed they hated eggplant. I guess I found a new way to prepare it that worked (or disguised it). My brother chowed through a bunch of my rustic greek eggplant dip before I mentioned he was eating eggplant. He didn't even realize it!