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Feb 4, 2009 11:36 AM

CSA Reviews

I'm thinking about signing up for a CSA share for the first time this year. We don't have a car, so our options are narrowed to a farm with pickup somewhere in NW DC or home delivery. I'm wondering if anyone can share their experiences, positive and negative, on particular CSA farms.

At the moment, the prime candidate as culled from the WashPo list out today is probably Clagett Farm (, so if anyone has particular experience with them, that would be great.

Otherwise, any thoughts on the CSA experience, from quality to quantity, value for money to efficiency (in terms of the need to buy additional veggies). I'm a vegetarian, my boyfriend isn't, but we tend to cook almost exclusively veggie meals, for what that's worth.


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  1. I'm interested in this as well Sara and hope you get a lot of replies! I have had experience with Washington Green Grocer. Although not a CSA, you do get a box of produce delivered to your door once a week. I found the quality to be good,and the prices to be resonable. You can decide how often you want delivery, what size box you'd like, and all organic or an organic/conventional mix. I live alone, and cook only vegitarian meals so I use lots of produce, and I go with the small box every other week and it's worked out well.

    1. The Post did an ongoing column last year called the CSA Chronicles. Here's the wrap up:
      It made it clear that a CSA would not work for me. Too hard for me to cook around what they provided randomly each week. Just not my preference. South Mountain Creamery just sent an email announcing they were going to offer fresh veggie and fruit deliveries soon. They are still organizing it, but it sounds good to me (not a CSA, but delivery of fresh, local produce on demand). It doesn't look like they have anything on their website about it yet, but they sent an email to dairy customers.

      14 Replies
      1. re: wookyluvr

        We did one a couple of years and there was bad crop weather, so we were disappointed in what we got for the cost (although I kept telling myself it was good to support local farmers). I think if you're cooking mostly veggie meals there's a better chance you'll use and appreciate what you get (I can remember there were some interesting greens we got, but we didn't get much more than that).

        Wookyluvr, do you recommend any South Mtn. products in particular (other than milk)? I see they not only have cheeses, but bread, meat and prepared dinners.

        1. re: Doh

          I mainly buy milk from South Mountain Creamery. I've had delivery service for a long time now and they are great. I love the butter. The chocolate milk is a real splurge. I also buy ground beef from them, which has been good. I've tried the yogurt drinks, but no one in my house likes them. I tried cookie dough once, but thought it was too pricey. I like their egg nog and cider, which are seasonal. The only product I really did not like was half and half, which had fatty chunks in it. It's been years since I tried it, so maybe it's better now. Anyhow, that's about it. I don't eat a lot of meat, so haven't tried much, although I have always wondered what "puddin" is.... now I see they have a description of it on the website. Ick. :)

            1. re: wookyluvr

              We had delivery service from South Mountain for a couple of years but eventually dropped them because of customer service issues--mainly billing issues and lack of info on products. They would raise prices on our standing order and not inform customers ahead of time so by the time your order was delivered you would be paying more than you realized--this actually happened several times. They would also raise prices and then not update prices on the website. Getting help and asking detailed product questions over the phone was difficult. The people who answered the phone could not accurately answer my questions about the farming operation and resolving billing issues was difficult. The nail in the coffin was that shelf life of the milk was pretty unpredictable. Some weeks it would last close to close to two weeks, other weeks five days or so. Unless you have a big family who can consume a big order predictably every week I would say it's better to buy Trickling Springs milk from WF or a coop.

              1. re: shellymck

                My experience with SMC is a little different... We have different standing orders each week (so every other week we get x bottles of skim milk, the alternating week we get y bottles of skim plus a quart of whole, every 3rd week we get butter, every 4th week we get ground beef) and then they've been good about making changes as needed to the delivery. I've only had whole milk go bad... it doesn't last more than a week for me, and I just get a quart for my son. If he doesn't drink it, I dump it. The skim milk has never gone bad for us. But I bring it in quickly after the delivery. It's never sitting outside long. Just my experience. I've never had problems with billing. They now send an email prior to delivery, so I know what's coming, and then another email after the delivery that shows the billing for that week. I think South Mountain Creamery is doing a good job of communicating (better in the past year than prior to that). Their website is useful for making delivery changes and vacation stops. I just don't have a problem with them. I don't have a big family (2 little kids who don't drink much milk).

              2. re: wookyluvr

                I am doing SMC now too. Today was my first delivery-let's see. I have heard the Yogurt could be done differently soon. Right now they use high corn fructuse syrup, or crystalline fructose. It is on their list of things to do away with soon.
                I also, got an e-mail for South Mountain Vegetables, which will start in March. The only thing to be weary about is cheese and meats on prices because sometimes they don't get the pound exact, so price could be more than anticipated. I think the customer service is awesome and everyone that I have talked to over the phone has been very nice.

            2. re: wookyluvr

              South Mountain Veggies has their veggie delivery website up now.

              1. re: wookyluvr

                I just signed up for the South Mountain Veggie. I like the flexibility of being able to change the box size or cancel the order at any time. The website says that they will be 100% organic. They also have 3 sizes available which is a bit unique.

                1. re: daves_32

                  Have any of you had South Mountain deliver to an apartment building, rather than a house? I've been thinking about ordering from them, as well, but they'd have to be buzzed in and go through our building's front desk -- just curious, since the website assumes a porch or garage.... If we do it, I'll report how it works with our set-up.

                  Since I can walk easily to the grocery store and farmers market, it doesn't seem like it would help any with our carbon footprint, since they're a good seventy miles from DC -- but I have been out to the farm and liked the milk and cheese. None of the farmers markets I know have anyone selling milk, which is frustrating.

                  1. re: mselectra

                    there is milk at the courthouse farmer's market, just a heads up, i bought some last week and it still smells/tastes great

                    1. re: littlew1ng

                      Thanks for that info. Do you know what farm it is? Maybe could get them to branch out to one of the markets closer to me ;) (I always think it would be fun to check out more farmers markets in the area, but then I have trouble dragging myself to Dupont Circle on Sunday mornings, and I can walk to it.)

                      1. re: mselectra

                        i'm sorry i don't know but i will check next time i go down there.

                    2. re: mselectra

                      The "carbon footprint" of South Mountain should be less than a producers-only farmers' market with each farmer driving his own truck into town.
                      South Mountain may drive "a good seventy miles," but they're bringing in the products from a large group of other farms (dairy, meat, cheese, eggs, various produce items) and keeping all those trucks off the highways.
                      Some markets allow "consolidators" of locally grown produce or co-ops for this reason.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Yes, I see your point, and I do understand that. And more power to them, especially using their already in place delivery system to help their neighboring farms -- didn't mean to suggest otherwise. Aside from any environmental issues, it must be hard for farmers to spare the time and trucks and personnel to drive all around to various markets. Demand and supply don't always meet neatly.

                        But the farmers are all coming to the farmers market anyway, and I can walk there. I guess in my post, at that moment, I was really thinking out loud about my little individual household's "footprint" (along with convenience etc), rather than South Mountain's or the larger issues all this raises.

              2. In general, Do you have to be home for these deliveries?
                Or do you pick them up @ a designated drop point? (ala Dharma Initiative, lol)

                7 Replies
                1. re: WestIndianArchie

                  We did Great Country Farms last year and didn't need to be at home. On hot weeks they were good about reminding us to put out a cooler. We did end up planning around it, though.

                  It was an okay experience and I'm glad I did it. On the whole it was fairly priced. You do have to be prepared to spend some time a few weeks to take care of what you get. For instance, during apricot season we had to devote some time to turn a lot into jelly. Peaches, cutting and freezing. We were swamped with potatoes. Then some weeks you get a lot of greens or such (I like greens, but not THAT much).

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    We've been members of Great Country Farms for 9 years, but will not be re-upping this year. The price has raised faster than the quality or quantity.

                    One of the 'perks' of GCF is the u-pick option which is less useful if you don't have a car or live far from Bluemont.

                    1. re: jridou

                      True on the u-pick. If we lived closer it would've been a great deal. We only made it twice, though. If you're in Leesburg, even, then it makes more sense.

                  2. re: WestIndianArchie

                    Almost all of them I think you have to pick up at drop point, which can severely limit your choices. If you want delivery, you can check out the thread on Washington Green Grocers.

                    1. re: Doh

                      I have been researching some CSA's but here is the debate I am having... if my share must be picked up at a specific drop point (not delivered directly to my home), what is the advantage to even having it? If I had to travel to pick up the fruits and vegetables, why would a famer's market not be just as good (or better because it has multiple farms). With Great Country, I could pay $550 for a home delivered share. However, being alone, perhaps the share may be too big.
                      Maybe I am totally missing something. Please help!

                      1. re: daves_32

                        One share at Great Country is far too much for one person. A half share can be had, though.

                        1. re: daves_32

                          I posted a review of my CSA, Spiral Path Organic farm in the thread on WGG vs CSAs. We have to drive about three miles to pick up our share from the farmer's market every Saturday. Here are some reasons why driving to pick up makes sense: in my neighborhood I haven't found an organic only option that's convenient and cost effective; the price per week is good--less than $16 for a big box of organic veggies--it would be far pricier to buy from WF or at the market and at my market most vendors aren't organic; I like the element of surprise-I can cook any veggie; lines at the market can get long and it can take a long time to shop if you go from stand to stand--with my setup I bypass all lines, get my box and go.

                    2. Last summer, I did Bull Run Mountain Farm in The Plains, VA. I picked up in Alexandria and visited the farm. I got a share of veggies, fruits, and eggs. I think the farmer, Leigh Hauter does a great job and his newsletters are quite funny. I have to say that sometimes you don't use everything and the type of produce and the amount you get depends on size, but he was very flexible. The cool things about this CSA is the organized visits to the farm and personal attention you get from the farmer (pick your pumpkin, asparagus, pot luck, pick your eggs, go for hikes through the mountain/land, etc...). I did research across all the CSA's in and around DC and found him to be quite resonable.

                      This year I will most likely not be doing one because I felt that I wasted a lot of good food and was always rushing from work to pick up the delivery. I am trying out SMC this year/now. I am also vegetarian and really enjoy and like the CSA idea.

                      Also, the egg share was really nice because I know the chickens were treated well-free range!


                      I would say Bull Run Mountain Farm is one of the best in and around DC.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Smiles2008

                        was just checking this out... I'm behind the ball, BRMF 9is full for 2009 delivery.

                      2. Clagett Farm held registration earlier this week. They said based on interest, only 9% of those wanting to purchase would be able to. They had a 70% retention rate.

                        I sat at the computer waiting for the registration form at the exact time they said it would be available, but I still don't know if I got it. If I did, I'll post results later in the season.