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CSA's - Anyone use Sweet Earth Organic?

I'm thinking of joining a CSA this summer. I noticed past posts praising Angelic Organics. But I was looking at the helpful map at this website: http://www.sustainusa.org/familyfarme.... Sweet Earth Organic has a pickup spot just around the corner from me. Their website looks good: sweetearthorganicfarm.com. But I was wondering if anyone has any personal experience with them. If you think it's great or have complaints, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks!

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  1. While I don't have any experience YET, I signed up for the 2008 growing season with Sweet Earth. The pickup is closer, on Fridays, and it offers a half share, which will be better suited for me since I live by myself most of the week. I also like that Sweet Earth specializes in heirloom varieties of veggies.
    Also, I checked last week, and Angelic Organics was sold out of full-season 20 week long shares, which influenced my decision more than anything else. This is my first Chicago farm share experience, but I'll gladly check back in a year!

    1 Reply
    1. re: enevius

      Hello Enevius -- noted that you also signed up for the Sweet Earth Organic CSA -- have you recieved any information from them to date? Several others of us who sent in checks have not been able to reach them to determine if/when the program will be starting up. Would love to hear if you've had any other information!

    2. I've tried Sweet Earth Organic. Their shares are plentiful and the mix is good. This year I've signed up with Genesis Growers which delivers near my house in Chicago, so I'd suggest giving them a try for either their Summer or Fall Share. Their website is: http://www.genesis-growers.com

      I'd also recommend Home Grown Wisconsin: http://homegrownwisconsin.com

      2 Replies
      1. re: john5556

        It's time to start thinking about our CSA sign up again for the upcoming season. I really like Sweet Earth Organic because our shares are beautiful, plentiful, clean, and heirlooms. This will be my third year w/ Farmer Renee who is hard working and consistent. Yes, communication gets complicated sometime however, this is a Huge undertaking. For those commenting about delayed
        reply come May - this is planting season & that's when the farm is busiest. I know because I have a city garden as well. My feelings go w/ the farm which I intend to visit.
        Anyone else game to go see Sweet Earth this Season? Here's to a Healthy Growing season. Marilyn

        1. re: marilyn Schriner

          Count me in on that trip! I met Farmer Renee at the Chicago Green Market at the end of the season and want to travel up to that part of WI to visit her working farm. Desiree

      2. I also signed up for Sweet Earth's 2008 growing season -- actually, I sent my check in about a month ago but its not been cashed yet. I've tried to follow up with the farm, but haven't recieved a response (Farmer Renee was very responsive via email before I signed up). Has anyone heard anything yet for the year? I was concerned that perhaps with all of the rain/flooding, the farm may have been affected. Any news others have heard would be appreciated!

        2 Replies
        1. re: RebeccaC

          Hi Rebecca,
          I am in the same situation as you are, except we sent our check in at the beginning of March. No confirmation, no information. I finally called and reached her at the end of may, and she said to send an email. which she never responded to. i spoke to her june 13, and she said that we were going to be added to an email update list that weekend. she didn't mention the flooding, and said that she was planning to start deliveries at the end of june. she blamed spam-filtering for not responding to my emails. i tried to contact her through the website after i didn't hear anything, but got no response. we still haven't gotten any information...

          1. re: jessileejack

            Wow! That IS frustrating. I'd read similar posts on one of the CSA reco sites I'd visited, but the complaints had all been from a few years ago so I decided to take a leap of faith that things had improved. I guess I'll just keep my fingers crossed for now and keep calling/emailing. Please do let me know if you recieve any additional information.

        2. I am unfortunately on the same boat -my check was cashed in march and Renee stopped emailing me in early June after I offered my place as a pick up site in west town. I stopped by the Green City Market and everyone had sour faces upon me mentioning sweet earth CSA and wished me luck in getting my fund$ back! If anyone does get a hold of her please ask her to contact the rest of us....and if there is any other #, please pass on!!!! k

          7 Replies
          1. re: kusi

            Kusi -- thanks for the update. This just makes my heart sink. Like I said, I'd read a few posts like this from the past, but she was so nice over email, I really had hoped for better! Since my check hasn't been cashed yet, perhaps I'll try to have my bank put a stop on the check asap. FYI...I've been trying to contact the farm via phone all week and haven't been getting any answer. If I ever do, I'll post again!

            1. re: RebeccaC

              There is an update on the website now. They will probably start in July.

              1. re: RebeccaC

                hey folks,
                i had luck contacting renee on her cell phone yesterday 608 412 3317--she said she was getting so many calls that the farm's voicemail was full/not working. she said that the farm had been impacted by the flooding, but that she was hopeful that they'd pull through.

                i'm sympathetic, but the lack of communication started way before the flooding. our checks from march just got cashed last week. once, renee had mentioned an email list of subscribers that she was going to add us to--does anyone know if this exists?

                1. re: RebeccaC

                  I just talked to a woman (former organic farmer herself) who has friends who have subscribed to Sweet Earth's CSA-- apparently Renee is habitually late starting deliveries--- for the past few years anyway.

                  Like jessileejack, I'm sympathetic to the problems of organic farming, but the seriously, the problem here is the complete failure to communicate these problems to the people who have invested money into the CSA. Be late, have problems, struggle a little bit, but let us know what's going on!

                  I'm still hopeful that the rest of the year will wow me with spectacular produce, but doubt is starting to creep in. Too bad. This is my first try with CSAs and I'd hate it to be the last...

                  1. re: Genneaux

                    All -- thanks for the updates. Glad to hear there has finally been some communicaton. I actually called my bank and cancelled my check yesterday, after hearing the stories from others. I've got my fingers crossed that other CSAs might still be accepting new members for 2008. Keep me updated on how Sweet Earth turns out -- I'd love to support Renee in 2009 if all goes well for others.

                    You're right that a little communication could go a long way.

                    1. re: RebeccaC

                      I just signed up with Harvest Moon Organics (they were one of the few with spaces left for the summer). It is one of the more expensive ones ($695 for the full share), and I am splitting a full share with my husband and my brother (so roughly $10 per person per week).

                      Thus far, I have been happy and yet disappointed with my order. My disappointment was actually in the fact that my last two weeks had quite small orders. I understand this is a risk you take with CSAs, and I know that southern Wisconsin (where the farm is located) was affected by the floods, so while I am upset with the size, I can't really hold it against the farm. I can just hope it gets better as the season goes on.

                      I was pleasantly surprised the last two weeks with the variety of produce, however. Originally, I wanted to go with another CSA that gives a large range of fruit along with veggies, and also has a cheese share. Obviously, that one filled up, but Harvest Moon has included at least one locally made cheese each week, a baked good made using the produce, and some fruit. Not too bad for only expecting some asparagus and spinach. I live in North Center and the pick up is at Southport and Grace, which isn't too far from me. This is definitely a company worth checking out. http://www.harvestmoon-farms.com/

                      1. re: foodrocks

                        Oh...this is good to hear! Harvest Moon was actually my second choice -- I'd gone with Sweet Earth b/c they drop off nearer to my home. But Harvest Moon has a drop off by my office, so I just emailed them to see if they still have any room. My fingers are crossed!

              2. I used Sweet Earth last year and signed up again for this year. Farmer Renee had flooding like alot of Wisconsin farmers did last year, but she pulled through with enough veggies for the season. The veggies were absolutely delicious. It is exceedingly difficult to get a hold of Farmer Renee, and it seems like she needs some help with computers and updates. There is an element of faith involved. But she is a legitimate organic farmer who has been doing it for a long time. I commend her for continuing such a difficult business. Being a shareholder is taking a risk with the farmer. It protects them when they need it most. It gives me a share of the bounty when the season is good. Hopefully we will start to have legislation that attacks climate change head on in the near future. The veggies were excellent and I gained lots of energy last year.

                She did not cash my check for along time, either. I suggested paypal. I really think they need some volunteers to get her up and running with an efficient web-based payment/ communication schedule.

                1 Reply
                1. re: vivians

                  anyone hear anything more about when deliveries might be starting? i was hopeful that it might be early july, but haven't gotten any news since that june 25 update.

                2. I just got Farmer Renee on the phone, and she said the first delivery was going to be this Saturday (7/12). She said that pick-up addresses would be on the website today...

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: srrl

                    No update to the website yet...glad to see there are others out there who've had similar experiences to mine in the past and had it turn out ok. I was about to stop payment on the check i sent in April when it was cashed. I have my fingers crossed but would love to see an update! Arg!

                    1. re: apostrophina

                      frustrating...how are we supposed to know where to pick up with no address??!! hopefully it will get posted today...

                    2. re: srrl

                      Here's the latest:
                      "Our goal was to deliver this weekend. We gave it our best but, we have decided instead start next Friday, 18th. Thanks for all the concern that was shown. With the extreme and unexpected weather challenge we faced, every monment of daylight has been spent to protect your investment in our crops. We can now confidently say that a good season will follow this rocky start. We will be contacting everyone by email over the next few days. Farmer Renee/Sweet Earth"

                      Still no info on pick-up addresses. I guess we just drive around tomorrow and look for the refrigerated truck...

                      My friend and I are thinking a road trip to Wauzeka, WI is in order. Pick my own dang veg.

                      1. re: Genneaux

                        So are we to assume that the addresses listed on the site are out of date?

                        1. re: Genneaux

                          I just got an email notice that the deliveries will be starting tomorrow. She says we have to select a location for the pick up, but cannot say when she will be there. She also didn't list where the locations might be. I suppose the list on her website is current. I'm incredibly frustrated. I was also under the impression when I signed up that the deliveries would be on Saturday. Any suggestions? Does anyone know when she has arrived in past years?

                          1. re: veghound55

                            It appears there are only addresses for some of the pick-up sites on the website. At the bottom it just says "Chicago Locations" and gives intersections with no addresses. Anyone know anything about the 'Montrose and Pulaski' pick-up? very very frustrating.

                            1. re: veghound55

                              I just called the one pick-up location in Chicago with a phone number, G.R. New Wold Electronics (!) on Chicago & Damen and the man who answered the phone said he was expecting a drop-off this morning at 9am, but hadn't heard anything from the farm and hadn't got the boxes yet (9:10am). I tried to ask if there was also a pick-up on Saturday, but I don't think my question really got through. I'll call back a bit later, but I'm at work! How can I pick up my share if I'm in the suburbs until 5pm?

                              Here's a logistical question-- how does Farmer Renee know how much to drop off at each location? Did anyone sign up for a particular drop-off location? I don't think we did and there's nothing on the sign-up form to indicate a choice.

                              Here's the info for the Chicago Ave drop off if anyone else wants to check: G.R. New World (This is an electronics store.) 312-226-6696 Hours- Fri. 9am-8pm Sat. 9am-Noon

                              Did anyone else get an email? We haven't gotten on yet!

                        2. Anyone know if Farmer Renee would object to someone volunteering to be her communications director? I am sure someone can take over daily communications, at least update the website info to reflect what is going on. If anyone gets word about drop offs, esp. times & locations, please let us know on this discussion (our check was cashed, but we never got any emails...)

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: Chicagoist

                            I got Renee on the phone yesterday and told her that we had not received an e-mail and still needed an address for the Montrose/Pulaski pick-up site. She told me to pick up at the Addison/Austin site for this week only, but still did not give an address for the Montrose/Pulaski site for next week. I asked her for a pick-up time--or even a ballpark--and she said she couldn't give me one. She said she would post online after she dropped everything off so we'd know we could pick up.

                            There is an update on the site regarding pickups, but it simply links you to the old pick-up page with no new info.

                            1. re: Chicagoist

                              Farmer Renee's daughter called me yesterday to see if I'd gotten the email blast they sent asking for pick up locations. She answered a few questions.

                              First, they drop off the number of boxes requested at each location. (I'm not sure how they would know how many if you didn't get the email and select a location.)

                              She said that the boxes are relatively safe there and that most people just stop by after work and pick up the box. It's on an honor system and you cross of your name once you're there.

                              I mentioned that there wasn't an exact street address for many of the Chicago locations. She recognized that it was a problem and said that most people were repeat customers who already knew the exact address. She said that she would recommend that her mother post the exact addresses.

                              Now that I'm looking at the website, the location we selected yesterday is no longer available. She also says that the deliveries will be made late afternoon today because of storms last night.

                              I'm finding this very frustrating. If anyone had a good experience last year, please share it. I'd love to feel better about this. Organic farming should not be raising my blood pressure so much.

                              1. re: veghound55

                                I think being a repeat customer is out of the question for me at this point. I'm wishing I could get my money back now...

                                1. re: srrl

                                  The latest I've heard (from a friend of a friend who got through by phone) is that Farmer Renee is getting in rather late today. The shares will be available late at the Austin location, and available tomorrow at other locations.

                                  Since the Montrose location doesn't seem to be available right now, it's unclear where the shares will be for people (like me) who signed up there. Maybe she'll post something later today.

                                  I've tried calling and emailing with no luck. If anyone hears anything, please pass the word along.

                                  1. re: veghound55

                                    Have you noticed that with the latest update to the News page, they also updated the Drop-Off Sites list? Montrose/Pulaski and the others without addresses are gone completely. This leaves just three Chicago drop-off locations-- Waveland, Chicago & 19th.

                                    http://www.sweetearthorganicfarm.com/...

                                  2. re: srrl

                                    Simply being a first-time customer doesn't even seem to be an easy option right now...

                                    My friend has been playing phone tag with Renee (called her by cell-phone; her number is in an earlier post on this thread) with no luck. I called the poor guy at the Chicago/Damen location and he hasn't gotten a delivery, hasn't heard from Renee and has no idea what's going on. If Sweet Earth is hoping to foster community good will, she's not doing a very good job. My friend went to the Northbrook drop-off site and the woman there (again, no produce) seemed unconcerned about Renee's lack of communication-- apparently this is how it goes with Sweet Earth and that is so not cool with me.

                                    I'm really really hoping that tomorrow this all miraculously comes together.

                                    If anyone at all gets any produce at all out of this in the next few days, please please post to this forum ASAP and give a full account of how you managed to do it.

                                    1. re: Genneaux

                                      The latest: My friend finally talked to Renee (so try that cell # if you want to talk to her). The farm is running behind because of lightning storms during harvest last night. She says that "hopefully" she will get to the Chicago Ave location before they close tonight. I'd say the same goes for the Austin/Ashland location (which has replaced Montrose/Pulaski).

                                      I'm going to call the electronics shop on Chicago around dinner time and keep my fingers crossed. Otherwise it's a tomorrow morning pick-up and possibly limp veg.

                                      Good luck everyone!

                                      1. re: Genneaux

                                        I spoke to the soft-spoken Farmer Renee. As of 2pm she was headed to Chicago. It sounds like she plans to get the produce to Austin and to some suburban locations tonight/early evening.

                                        I was able to switch my pick up point to Evanston. She plans to drop off there, and some other locations late in the evening tonight so people can grab the boxes in the early morning tomorrow. That is what I plan to do.

                                        It's a little unclear what time boxes will arrive at Chicago and Damen, but since it's a store, it seems likely she'll get there sometime on the early side tonight, or have someone take the boxes over first thing in the morning.

                                        If you're one of the many who picked the Montrose location, it is not an option anymore. I would recommend leaving a message on her cell phone saying where you want to pick up your box.

                                        She said she wasn't giving definite times because "people really rely on them." Very frustrating. She will be posting an update on the website once she starts dropping off the boxes.

                                        I'll post tomorrow after I've gotten the box. I really hope it's worth it and that things go smother after this.

                                        1. re: veghound55

                                          For those of you who spoke to her today, did she give any indication as to whether or not the Montrose pick-up is not available for just this week or if it has been permanently removed?

                                          1. re: srrl

                                            I believe it was permanently removed. She didn't even know it was still listed. If you live near that cite, I would keep calling this week. Maybe you can convince her to change her mind.

                                            1. re: veghound55

                                              wow. the biggest reason we picked Sweet Earth was because that was a convenient pick up. I think I'm going to ask for a refund less the one delivery (if we ever get it). I'm sure I won't get it, but this is absolutely ridiculous.

                                              1. re: srrl

                                                I was able to pick up my box on Saturday morning at the Evanston location.

                                                We got a mess of salad, one garlic curl, peas, beans, greens, kolrabi and some herbs. It was a nice mix and I was happy with it. We're splitting with another couple and I'd say that I'll get about two meals and some left overs out of the split.

                                                Now that I know that there is some kind of system, I feel a little better. I'm hoping it's smoother the rest of the summer/fall.

                                2. Hi everyone - I just wanted to let you know about a CSA alternative that I found and have been using for the last couple of weeks after finding that all of the CSAs in the area are sold out for the season. It's called Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks: http://www.freshpicks.com. I live on the North Shore and they deliver all over this are from Niles where they are based - not sure what other suburbs they do or about the city. They aren't a CSA, but they get all of their veggies from local farms - many that offer CSAs in our area - Genesis Growers, St Anne, etc. I've received a beautiful assortment of veggies in the Fresh Pick over the past few weeks. While I will still probably look for a CSA next year, I do think Irv & SHelly are a nice alternative. They are supporting family farms and have great service. The home delivery does add a little extra pollution I suppose, but then I would be driving to a pick up location with a CSA, so I'm not sure if that doesn't all work itself out. I'd be interested in what others think about it.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Haacker2

                                    I order through Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks too! I LOVE them! I love all the veggies I get I love the service. They are super nice and I have even inquired about random things that are not on their site and they are looking into for me! I think the delivery is great because they do certain zip codes on certain days therefore they aren't driving ALL over the place wasting gas, they have it figured out really well! They also give you a sheet attached to your receipt with how to cook veggies in the fresh picks box in case you're not sure and they have recipes on their site! I would highly recommend them to anyone!

                                    I just reread that and I am so like a commercial! ha! I really do love the service though, I love buying from local farmers. I love the quality and the service.

                                    1. re: Gweck

                                      Is anyone else not getting everything in their box that's been listed in Farmer Renee's email? Last week the email said that peas and thyme would be in the box, both of which were missing in ours. This week it said that garlic scapes and a type of basil would be in the box---again, missing...

                                      1. re: srrl

                                        I got everything listed last week but the lettuce was bad. It had wilted/ was waterlogged in a bag. Last year from week to week we did not know what to expect...things generally were put in the boxes when it was ripe. Farmer Renee has a general schedule on her website. But, basically, if you have ever had a vegetable garden, things become ripe when they want.... not when you want.

                                        1. re: vivians

                                          I guess, but she's putting up lists of the vegetables for the week on her website. She should know what is coming out that day. Otherwise she's raising expectations that she isn't fulfilling.

                                          The box last week had everything and the lettuce was great. It's too bad it sounds like there is some inconsistency in the shares.

                                          I haven't seen this week's yet (a friend picked it up).

                                  2. The problems continue. To recap: so far, the CSA got off to a late start, then there was confusion about whether some locations (listed on the website) would be available, then there were further issues about when the deliveries would be made. The farmer said maybe by 5 on Fridays or on Saturday mornings--this makes a big difference in terms of where we would want to pick up the box and there was next to no communication about it from the beginning of the season.

                                    This morning, I went to the pick up location--no vegetables. My girlfriend called the farmer for me (I was just too mad and tired) and it turns out that they won't be available until 6 tonight, but Farmer Renee did nothing to contact members. She said that she didn't have internet available, which to me means that she didn't even try to find an internet cafe, or call someone she knows to post for her. She also didn't try to call the members. So I'm sure that all of us wasted time this morning going to the pick up site. And given all this, she wasn't really apologetic about the delay--just said that it would have been impractical for her to call everyone and that we should switch to a closer location if it was out of our way (of course, there is no closer location).

                                    I would not recommend this CSA for next year because of the logistic problems and complete lack of communication that have plagued it from the beginning. The vegetables are great, but the effort that goes into getting them from week to week (are they here? when are they coming? where will they be?) just isn't worth it.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: veghound55

                                      Agreed. Poor logistics, poor communication, inconsistent deliveries, and no sympathy for the hassle that people are going through.
                                      at my drop-off site in pilsen, we also had a pest issue with something (a rat?) eating the veggies through the holes in the boxes. but that seems to be resolved now, they've been putting boxes sideways to cover the holes. it's just one of the problems of having the veggies dropped off at unmonitored outdoor sites in the middle of the night or early morning.

                                      I was surprised that in this most recent vegetable no-show (today, sept. 20), farmer renee said that she turned around in the truck last night but didn't get around to emailing customers until the morning.

                                      1. re: farmerReneesucks

                                        Our experience with Sweet Earth Organic has been incredibly frustrating and a total disappointment. I understand that buying into a CSA means taking risks, but Renee's vague communication, or in many cases, her complete lack of communication period, is unacceptable. Deliveries are often late or don't happen at all. Friends who participate in other CSAs haven't encountered ANY of the problems we've had. This is our first and last year with Sweet Earth Organic. As the previous poster mentioned, I'll be interested to see how many weeks of produce we ultimately receive.

                                    2. I have enjoyed Sweet Earth Organic CSA for several years now. Farmer Renee is one of those rare people who has great integrity. I have had the privilege of speaking with her at length about her farming practices and I can tell you that she does absolutely everything she can to insure that those vegetables are as nutritious, fresh and free of contamination as they can possibly be! I feel blessed to be able to really know the person who puts food on my table!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: chirunner

                                        Forget about Sweet Earth's CSA , it was by far the worst CSA I've ever subscribed to , complete waste of money and time . Poor quality vegetables , absolutely no communication , missing deliveries ( blaming the weather ) , even though all the other CSAs delivered consistently . They cut the season short , only 16 weeeks instead of 20 , without even notifying the subscribers . Horrible , absolutely horrible service . Stay away from Sweet Earth Organic farm !!! If anybody doesn't believe me or the other negative reviews in this long thread , just ask around the Green City market in Chicago , which farmer Renee attends , you'll hear the same horror stories ! I'm going with Angelic Organics this year .