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Jan 2, 2009 10:04 AM

CSAs - Big boxes of veggies all summer long - MSP

First of all, this is my first post. I have been lurking for a while so I figured now was about time to tap your collective knowledge for advice on my new endeavor.

I want to get a CSA share this year. I will probably need to share it with a friend or family member since I am only one in my household. I have done some cursory searching on the topic within this board as well as the internet at large.

How do you choose a farm? Many of the farm websites I have looked over offer a somewhat reasonable pick up location for me, so there has to be other factors.
How happy are you with your selection?
Where do you get your produce from?
Are "half shares" worth it? Or should I find someone to split a whole one with?
What else do I need to know before diving into the world of weekly produce?

Thank you in advance.

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  1. dc, this will be our 4th year with Harmony Valley Farm. We chose them because of pickup location mainly, but have been very happy. For the last three years, we have split the vegetables with my brother and his family and have had a whole fruit share to ourselves (it's my wife, three kids (2, 5 and 6) and myself).

    This coming year, we are taking the whole share of vegetables, but if it's just you by yourself, splitting a whole share with another friend/family will be adequate. We also get 2 lbs of coffee.

    The vegetables are grown in Viroqua, Wisconsin and the fruit comes from all over the place.

    I really can't think of what else you need to know -- CSAs, from what I understand, are the kind of thing you choose, see how you like it and adjust.

    Hope this helps, and welcome to posting on the board.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      I joined up with Harmony Valley Farm not only because of the pickup point being relatively close to my home but because they offered flexible box scheduling and electronic payments monthly.

      While I enjoyed the multitude of different vegetables we received this year, I cannot say that I was as impressed with what we received as MSPD was. In fact, while I realize that HVF has been ravaged by flood damage two years running and I was glad we were helping a struggling farm, I felt that the offerings were paltry compared to what I was told to expect. It wasn't until the end of the summer when we finally received a box that I felt was worth the cost we were paying to feed our very small family of two.

      Even with all of that, I was impressed with every other aspect of HVF and agree with MSPD that you should go with them as long as you are aware of their history and are fine supporting a farm where you may not get as much as others participating in local CSAs.

      I have attached a copy of the photo I took from our first CSA box last spring.

      1. re: Bill Roehl

        Hey Bill...welcome to Chowhound.

        Our first year, prior to the floods, the boxes were more plentiful as you point out. Despite that, we've felt like we've been getting our money's worth still. And thanks for highlighting the payment option -- another reason I like them.

    2. dc, I've been a member of Harmony Valley Farm for 2 years as well. Chose them as they had a close pickup location. I've been doing the every-other week. Lots of produce and in the fall they give you plenty of root veggies that I'm still working on. The season goes from May - December, with the option of an additional 2 boxes for the "extended season" I've heard of other CSAs that stop with the first frost. If you're delving in for the first time, you might want to try a half (every other week) share, or do the "flexible week" option, where you can plan out when you'd want your box.

      It is fun seeing what you get and then figuring out what to do with it. You will definitely be cooking more!

      1. We belong to Big River Farms CSA, which is run by the Minnesota Food Association. They have several pickup locations around the metro (ours is at Mississippi Market at Selby-Dale) and seem to provide a nice mix of veggies.

        Our main reason for choosing them, though, is that they run some interesting programs for immigrant farmers and other new farmers, where the farmers produce a certain quantity and type of food for the CSA, then get assistance in marketing the rest of their produce elsewhere, etc... Lots of info on their website. It's a cool organization.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mtullius

          It definitely is a cool organization. I couldn't afford a CSA in 2007, and they didn't have any workshares left, but I volunteered for a couple months and saw first-hand what a neato operation they have going on there. Their eggs were the best eggs I've ever had, but the last time I checked their website ( I didn't see an egg share. Just chicken meat.

          I don't really know what tips to give you on how to choose a farm, though. I just did a ton of Googling and found all the organic or organic-track (whatever they call that - transitional?) farms in the area.

        2. Actually I just found a really helpful resource for selecting a CSA in Minnesota: Good luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: ShinyCake

            I looked at this last year, but it sold out before I could buy. It also looks like a cool organization. Anyone had any experience with them?

          2. We also chose our farm (Hog's Back Farm) due to pickup location, but we've really enjoyed our 3 seasons with them. They also have chicken and egg shares available.
            I am very happy with my selection, especially when compared to friends' CSA boxes from other farms.
            We pick up the box about 4 blocks from our home.
            Our farm does not offer half shares, but you can easily split it with a friend or family member.
            I would highly recommend the CSA, unless you go to the farmers market weekly. If you do the latter, I would not sign up for the former.