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CSA Review

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I'm thinking of getting a CSA again next year (last year I relied on farmer's markets, and I just didn't get there enough). I'm wondering if those that got a CSA in 2007 would mind giving a brief review of their experiences. Perhaps pros and cons and your delivery location? I'm in Somerville, but I would think that people would appreciate hearing about CSAs that deliver to other locations around Boston as well.

Lastly, I did try doing a search but didn't see any kind of roundup for 2007. Feel free to correct me if I missed something.

Thanks very much!

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  1. Parker Farm CSA delivers to Davis, Porter, and Central Squares (and at the farm in Lunenburg). Super friendly farmer Steve (and Steve Jr. his trusty sidekick) delivers great produce in large and small shares. This year delivered a little less variety than last, with a few crop failures like winter squash, and fewer yummy mushrooms than last year, but that's the risk you take with a CSA. Still, a huge variety of greens, lots and lots and lots of corn, potatoes and beets and other roots, broccoli and other cabbage-like things, beans both green and shell, etc. etc. etc. Steve also goes out of his way to trade or buy fruit (apples, peaches, etc.) from his neighbors along with some (fantastic) watermelons of his own. He's also very flexible: having someone pick up your share when on vacation, going out to the farm, etc.

    There's also a great community feel at least at the Davis pickup; it's a great way to meet like-minded neighbors. We've definitely in for next year.

    http://community.livejournal.com/park...
    http://web.mac.com/parkerfarm

    1. I belong to Waltham Fields Community Farm. They do a pick up in Somerville, I believe, but I go to Waltham so that I can be AT the farm, which is part of the fun. Plus the pick-your-own things are there. It is the best thing I've done in years.
      Pros: Tons of fresh veggies that will literally fill your fridge each week. Getting close to where your food comes from. Community spirit. Volunteering. Being at the farm. Cool farmers and farm workers.
      Cons: Tons of fresh veggies - you really need to eat at home nearly every night otherwise there will be fridge chaos. Or share extras with friends and family. Organizational skills come in very handy, as well as some tetris skills for knowing how to fit it all in the fridge without damaging delicate greens.

      1 Reply
      1. re: uman

        I am an omnivore and a CSA shareholder at Waltham Fields, having finished my third season.

        First, I second uman's pros/cons.

        Spoilage is the enemy and there can be a significant amount if you don't have someone to share, or long-term storage space, i.e., freezer, canning, etc. This year, I finally did a more formal share and got through many more veggies than in the past.

        Which is to say that you receive a ton of food every week. Fills one of those reuseable shopping satchels easily in the first weeks, and by full summer harvest, two or more. (For example, one week this summer, each share took home 20 lbs! of heirloom tomatoes, along with lots of other veggies. Many of them ended up in freezer bags for the winter months. One thing I promise - once you are a CSA shareholder, you will NEVER order a $12 for three slices of tomato heirloom tomato salad at a restaurant again!)

        The CSA price was $525 per share, which roughly breaks down to $20-25/week. It seems like you get at least as much as $20 worth of veggies each week.

        From a purely food angle, I would also add that the variety of veggies at Waltham (www.communityfarms.org) is really very high. Especially if you are into greens. If you do not like greens, the spring and fall can be a little overwhelming - what to do with all that chard? collards? KALE!?

        The pick-your-own is also integral to the experience. Several crops a week are pick-your-own, so presumably they are not part of the deliveries (Waltham has a Davis Sq. and Central Sq. drop-off during the week I think, but I always pickup on-site). Like uman, being at the farm is great - weekly therapy for me to walk the rows and take a breath. If you can make it out there, it's a far more enriching experience.

        The Waltham farm also has a significant non-profit charity side that does a lot of programming on the farm with kids and other volunteers - it also donates approx. 20% of the farm yield to area charities and food pantries. So if that helps the veggies go down easier, another good reason to pick Waltham.

      2. I had a Parker Farm share that I picked up at the farm in Lunenburg. I received a lot of food. Had a large share. Froze most of it and will be eating corn, greens, broccoli, soup, parsnips and tomato sauce all winter. What was received was certainly worth the cost. Produce always exceptional. However, he ended the farm pickup 2 or 3 weeks before the others, saying our share was less expensive so a shorter season. When we joined though he said the reduced cost was due to the decrease cost of his having to truck it out this way. Also, he didn't notify us at end of season that we could pick at the farm , like he did the other shares. These two things sit poorly with me. But he's not doing the farm pickup next year - so they shouldn't come into play again. Next year I'm trying Waltham CSA

        1. Hi ClippyZ,

          Last year we subscribed to Three Sisters Farm, which wasn't a great experience. They meant well, I trust, but the farm wasn't really ready for CSAs, and it was their first-ever time trying it. So, this year, we tried to sign up for Brookfield, but were late to the game, and got our names on the waiting list. Midsummer we were alerted by Brookfield that they could add us as shareholders for the rest of the season, and we jumped at the chance.

          So, with the disclaimer that we only recieved shares August through November, I'll say that we loved Brookfield. The quality was always high, as was the variety. We took advantage of the Arlington pick-up location (near where we live) which was terrifically convenient -- because the boxes of produce were housed in a fellow shareholder's garage, we could come as late as we needed to on pick-up days.

          We had a full share, which I found to be very reasonably priced, and though it sometimes proved too much food for just the two of us, I made a practice of giving out the surplus to happy friends. The Thanksgiving delivery was great, with LOTS of excellent squash, onions, potatoes, leeks, greens, cabbage, etc. I even hauled a big bag of produce on the plane with us to our family's T-giving destination; it made for a lovely organic T-giving dinner.

          I'll add that I really appreciate the helpful and informative newsletters that Brookfield sends out each week, and in general, I have found the farm folks to be super nice and helpful. Brookfield was, I think, the 3rd CSA to start in this country, so they have over 20 years experience at this. It shows. They're really organized.

          Bottom line: we're re-upping for next summer.

          1. We also did Parker Farm, which would be convenient for you. I would agree with the overall positive and negative remarks. Steve parker is very nice and we had more than enough mizuna kale and corn. Tomatoes were less than hoped for and variety in general was limited. Also, stopping a few weeks early with very little notice was a disappointment. Parker is a little less expensive than other CSAs in the area so that is a plus. We've moved to JP. Does anyone have feedback on the CSAs available for pickup in JP?

            9 Replies
            1. re: gourmaniac

              We're in JP and went with the Stillmans' CSA this year. They are the only farm at our "farm stand" on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I have no experience with other CSAs for comparison, but we were pretty happy this year. Nice variety and, we felt, good value for the $. You can check it out here: http://www.stillmansfarm.com/ One of the nice features is that for many weeks they give you a pre-filled box, then you choose additional stuff to customize.

              1. re: powella

                Plus, Aidan and the other Stillman folks couldn't be nicer or more helpful, I found. We didn't subscribe to their CSA, but before our Brookfield share kicked in in August, I did all my farmer's market shopping at their stand in Copley. Their produce was consistently excellent (and they have meat, too!).

                1. re: powella

                  Another vote for Stillman's here - my family have been members with both full and half shares over the past 7 years, and have been very happy. We were JP members until Aidan & Kate started up the Brookline option (which coincided with our giving up our dying car and relying on the T and Zipcar - it was great not to have to figure out how to carry our share on a 2-bus trip from JP!)

                  The variety seems a bit less exotic with the Brookline share, but Aidan is flexible to a fault and so pleasant to deal with! I enjoy our membership even more now.

                  1. re: powella

                    Count me in too! I have been a subscriber with Stillman's for over a year - for their meat as well - and it has been great to be able to benefit from both options. They are very flexible if you are unable to make a pick-up plus I like picking up in Brookline in front of the Clear Flour bakery which gives me an excuse to stock up there once a week as well.

                    I was happy with the quantity and quality of the produce this year.

                  2. re: the farmer

                    I've been very eager to get in on this as well. I live on the South Shore (Milton), work in Boston, but get to the "other" side of the Charles very infrequently. It seems as though most CSAs I've read about here have Cambridge / Somerville drop offs. Unfortunately, that isn't really going to work for me. Any info on Boston proper drop offs or south of town options?

                    p.s. - my jaw dropped and pooled saliva when I read the list of produce supplied by the farmer above!!

                    1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                      Wards Berry Farm in Sharon has a CSA. I haven't joined but have been to their market a lot. Their corn is excellent and they often win blue ribbons at the tomato contests in Boston each year. It would be about a 15-20 min drive for you from Milton. Wards is very close to Exit 8 off of 95 South.

                      1. re: BikeToEat

                        Thanks - I'll check it out.

                      2. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                        We're doing Heirloom Harvest w/ a pick-up at Crystal Spring. http://www.heirloomharvestcsa.com/

                        1. re: Eddie Van Hungry

                          Glen Stillman goes to the Quincy farmer's market on Friday. Great variety, and half shares are available.

                      3. I recently joined a Meat CSA in the Boston area - Chestnut Farms. 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/smoked meats. 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.

                        The pick up is in Arlington at the farmers market (which is great!). The CSA continues pick up after the farmers market ends in October too - so same location.

                        I can not comment more highly on the quality of the meats and the kindness of Kim (farmer). She is very knowlegable and will answer any of your meat/farming related questions.

                        On a side note, I have a "spot" (waitlisted from a year ago) for Red Fire Farm. I am hesitating to sign up due to the large quantity of produce. I would be willing to split a share with anyone who is interseted and lives near where I work (Roxbury) or live (Brighton). Just let me know if you are interested.

                        1. I have a share through Red Fire Farm, which delivers to Harvest Co-op in Central Square, Cambridge. I had the most wonderful experience picking up my share every week (The share runs from June to December but decreases in frequency at the end of october). The variety was quite impressive (I think they grow over 300 different varieties on the farm) and the amount was far more than 2 (non vegetarians) could reasonably eat in a week. Additionally, the pick-your-own option was very generous (worth the hour drive to get there). My sister and I picked over 10 quarts of the most beautiful strawberries in June and I have enough jam to last long after then next season is upon us. I did purchase the fruit share option as well as the vegetable share. Although $180 seems a bit steep, I think I will go with the fruit option again. Red Fire arranges for some kind of exchange or something with other local farms and obtains a good variety of fruit - in addition to the weekly 1/2 peck of tons of different apple varieties late in the season (the Green Shamrock were transcendent), we got tiny plums, wine grapes, peaches, melons, strawberries, blueberries (the smell of those is indescribable) and even some sugar snap and shell peas. The pickup at Harvest can get a little tight, but everyone (other CSA members) is very considerate when it comes to taking turns and maneuvering around the table during a crowded time. I have never had it take more than 20 minutes to pick up, even when I was in a hurry.

                          I also have a 10 lb monthly meat share through Stillman's. The meat is very good, and priced economically compared with their a la carte prices ($7 a pound). The farm provides pork, lamb, beef, chicken. Sometimes the cuts are a little strange or unexpected. I have gotten cube steak, country style ribs, pork neck bones (those weren't included in the '10 lb'), and even a package of hot dogs. I really can't do justice to the whole chickens that they have (all chicken comes whole). The flesh is much firmer than Bell and Evans (for example) and the flavor is just spectacular. The pickup for the meat share is painless, unless you count being enticed to buy bread at Clear Flour.

                          http://redfirefarm.homestead.com/file...
                          http://www.stillmansfarm.com/meatcsa....

                          1. I've done Stillman's on/off for years now. I live out near their farm in Lunenburg, so I pick up there. Sometimes we don't do it for lifestlye/pickup schedule reasons. Very happy with their produce and picks for the week. Their newsletter is nice for those new to a CSA. Just got done with 6 months of Chestnut Farms CSA. As pp said, Kim is wonderful. We stopped not because of the meat quality, but my husband would like to eat less meat/more fish. Their lamb is really good. I can even get my husband to eat the chicken and he doesn't like chicken. Bacon was wonderful. I will probably try to give it another go when my kids get older and start eating more meat. I think the only difficulty with a meat CSA is I'm used to deciding what I want to cook for meat that week and getting it, so you have to work with what you get. Also, remember to thaw out the stuff ahead of time. I found soaking it in water to defrost effects the texture of the beef frequently, so it's hard to quick thaw on a whim.

                            1. I put this together for my own research and thought it would be useful for others. Some of the information is incomplete -- as above, the information is based upon living in Somerville, MA (Davis Sq).

                              ***

                              Red Fire Farm - 10-15lbs/week
                              Full (24 weeks): $525-575
                              Main (20): $425-475
                              Fruit: +$180
                              MIT, Central Sq, or Union Sq/Somerville

                              Parker Farm
                              ~15 weeks, includes some fruit
                              Small: $300
                              Large: $475
                              Davis Sq, Porter Sq, Central Sq

                              Waltham Fields Community Farm - SOLD OUT 2008
                              20 weeks: $535 + $25 membership
                              Apple share: +$75
                              Davis Sq

                              Stone Soup Farm (new in 2008) - 20 weeks
                              Full (10-15lbs): $425-$550
                              Half (5-8lbs): $225-$275
                              Egg share too?
                              89 South Street, Boston, MA; Harvard Sq

                              The Food Project - 4-18lbs
                              ~16 weeks $450
                              Arlington, Cambridge, Jamaica Plain

                              Three Sisters Farm
                              No 2008 information available

                              Drumlin Farm - "1-2 shopping bags worth" (2 adults + 2 children)
                              20 weeks: $575 ($525 w/ 8 hours of field work)
                              Fruit: +$65 (9 weeks)
                              Cambridge via Revision Urban Farm

                              Brookfield Farm - 5-18 lbs. (14 lbs. avg.)
                              17 weeks: $490
                              175 Richdale Ave, Cambridge (Porter/Davis)

                              The Farm School - half-bushel box
                              20 weeks: $600
                              Iggy's Bread - 130 Fawcett St, Cambridge, MA

                              Stillmans Farm
                              Half - $300 / Full - $450
                              No Cambridge/Somerville pickup

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: chefscotticus

                                Great roundup- thanks for this!

                                1. re: chefscotticus

                                  Hey there-Thank you for the mention of my csa,but the number of weeks is incorrect-we go 20-21 weeks of drop offs.If you can,Please correct this-Thank you,Steve Parker/Parker farm

                                2. I'm currently doing Drumlin Farm's winter share and love it. The fact that you can pick up meat and eggs at good prices at the farm in Lincoln is a plus.

                                  The only one I would not recommend is the Farm School's - we tried them a few summers ago and got way too little food for the money. Quality was fine but paying $7 a pound for green beans is not cool. Maybe they had an off summer, but we were not happy. To their credit, they refunded our full share cost once we complained.

                                  CSA's are generally awesome.

                                  1. I did Red Fire last year. I'd say quality and variety was very high and the distribution people were very pleasant to deal with. It couldn't be more T acessible and it is convenient to be able to pick up anything else on your list at Harvest while you're there.
                                    Cons include: no half shares-it was very tough for 2 people to finish everything- but it was an incentive to eat our veggies! I got the fruit share for an additional $180 and I'm not sure it was completely worth it.
                                    The pickup at Harvest central square was tough for me to get to in a timely way from my job downtown, and the distribution site was a bit chaotic and cramped. Additionally they don't pre-box stuff-good if you want to pick out the perfect squash, bad if you want a friend to pick up for you.
                                    Although I understand that Red Fire be having a new pickup at MIT which would be more accessible for my SO who works there, I think I will be going with Stillmans this year based on the reviews given here. I think that picking up on the weekend will work better with my schedule and I'm interested in trying the meat CSA as well.

                                    1. We've had CSA shares at Waltham Fields and also the Food Project. Two years ago, Busa Farm in Lexington started a CSA and we switched to them, since we live quite nearby. They now have a system of "Busa Bucks" where you get scrip and can spend it. This worked out great for us, because we went light on the greens in June, and then got lots of corn and heirloom tomatoes in August. Until the end of March, the cost is $250 and you get $280 "Busa Bucks."

                                      In comparison w/ Waltham Fields, they don't have quite as much variety, but the convenience is great, and I appreciate the fact that I'm helping to put off the day when either a few McMansions or a group of condos goes up in that space.

                                      Their website is at: http://busafarm.com/BusaFarmCSA/

                                      1. I've done both the Food Project box share and Drumlin Farms summer and winter shares. I just re-upped for Drumlin, even though they dropped their single share, which was a deal at $375. Too much overhead, they said, so I found a friend and we're splitting the $575 full share. I love picking up at the farm, and they had a bumper crop of luscious cherry tomatoes last year and offered them as optional PYO - yummy! I have no complaints about Drumlin and am in it for the long run.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Valyn

                                          we have done 4 years worth of shares-- highly recc. Stillmans-- and agree with all above posters about Parker farms, which was an overall negative experience, unfortunately.

                                          1. re: Valyn

                                            How is the Food Project? I signed up this year because the Waltham Fields was sold out of 2008 shares, but it wasn't my first choice. Hopefully it's good!

                                            1. re: Christie

                                              I didn't have any complaints with the Food Project. I did the boxed share pick-up in Cambridge, not at the farm, for a season. I shifted to Drumlin only the Food Project was sold out when I finally got around to signing up.

                                          2. We did a full share last year at Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton and absolutely loved it. Lots of PYO and was a lot of produce. The staff is very friendly and you can have others pick up for you if needed. The kids loved seeing the farm animals that are around. I think they are full for this year, but they are taking names for a waiting list.

                                            http://www.gmfarm.com/

                                            1. There is an great CSA article and comparison chart in last week's Dig. I found it VERY helpful for differentiating between the offerings.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: mccarth

                                                I wish they had mentioned that Stillman's has a vegetable CSA, not just the meat one that the kids run.