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CSA's Any Thoughts or Opinions?

Looking to hear from people about their experience or opinions with CSA subscriptions. Are they a waste? A Rip-off? Great Value? Any opinions welcome. Thanks

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  1. What does CSA stand for? You'll get more answers if we know what you're talking about.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Kim Cooper

        Sorry for that it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

        1. re: Kim Cooper

          Sorry Kim, but CSA is considered the common term. And I live in Boston, so it's a pretty universal thing. I could be making a wrong assumption, but I am guessing you may not be familiar with them. If not, I would highly recommend checking out the local harvest link ChinoWayne posted. CSA's are great! Enjoy!

        2. You might want to state which area you're in, as availability will vary.

          Some prior discussions -
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/347183
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/488738

          1. I've done Farm Fresh to You for several years. Started with them because they deliver to my home in Vacaville. Family of 4 become 3 and we don't use it all, but I do use a lot. Quality usually good and varied.In winter we love fennel, citrus, kale, collards, leeks, potatoes, salad mix (especially for my guinea pig!) but should ask for less bok choy and escarole. Soon green garlic, favas.Recent price increase (March), but also increase in options. I buy their snack mix locally as well.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Shrinkrap

              If mostly local is okay with you, then FFTY is okay. But Farm Fresh to You is not a full CSA in the sense that they do not support the local Community 100% (the C in CSA). They source the majority of the produce from Capay, but add variety with out of area items. IMO, that defeats the point of a CSA. I stopped the service after I received cilantro from Mexico, which can be purchased at Safeway for 1/3rd the price if that's what you want.

              From their website:

              "During the summer months, over 80% of the produce going into the services comes from our farm, Capay Organic. Contents are first sourced from our farm, then neighboring farms in Yolo County. Next, contents are sourced from outside the local region to provide the necessary varieties in your specific service, deviating from the Pacific Northwest in the winter months."

              1. re: Shane Greenwood

                Yes, I've noticed that since this thread started. And I have recently been promoting them to neighbors. And I'm facing a price increase, and a decrease in kids living at home. And I historically grow my own, and support our farmers market. So it IS food for thought. But if I'm not mistaken, Vacaville is off the beaten path, and without a lot of delivery options. I once looked into full-belly, but at that time, it was "close but no cigar". I think FFTY is going to remain an acceptable compromise.

                1. re: Shrinkrap

                  That path's pretty well beaten, CSA trucks coming from the Guinda area have to drive through Vacaville on their way to the East Bay or SF. Eatwell and Terra Firma have pickup points there.

                  http://www.eatwell.com/community/inde...
                  http://www.terrafirmafarm.com/whereca...

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Thanks! I'm checking it out! And now that you mention it, I think it was Eatwell I checked out in the past. I'm hoping the maps we current. Businesses are dropping like flies around here ....

            2. CSA= Community Supported Agriculture. Typically a subscriber pays a fee to pick up a basket of vegetables grown by a local farm, usually at a neighbor's house.

              It depends mostly on the CSA and partially your eating habits. I started with Eatwell and was initially very happy (lovely green garlic), but then left because I felt the quality of the produce in my box was poor (mushy apples, moldy strawberries) and far inferior to what they were selling at the Ferry Bldg. This is just my experience--hopefully some people that are stlll happy with Eatwell will post.

              I switched to Two Small Farms (http://www.twosmallfarms.com/) and I pay about $22/box. A typical box had salad mix, chard, carrots, radishes, parsley, a hard squash, strawberries and a couple of mystery items. Most CSAs try to provide pretty basic, common vegetables that families find relatively easy to use. The quality of the vegetables at Two Small Farms is very high. For example, I find the greens last at least a week longer than what you get at the supermarket. Most CSAs offer a trial period where you can get a few boxes without paying for the whole year. I recommend trying candidates out this way so you can get a feel for the produce and whether you find the pickup site/schedule convenient for you.

              In addition, I also pick up Mariquita Farm's Mysterious Thursday basket for myself as well as for friends and coworkers, so I've observed ALOT of people adjusting to CSA living. Both the Two Small Farms and Mariquita Farms are great value-compared to organic greens at supermarkets. Not so much value, if you're used to paying $1 for 3lbs of rotten peppers in the "MUST GO SOON" bin at your local nonorganic grocer.

              Being a CSA member is definitely a learning experience. At first, you'll probably be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of veggies you get. In the beginning, I was like, "Carrots again? Parsley again? WTF am I supposed to do with all these turnips? One tip is to use the internet (carrot cake, tabouleh!) and pay attention to the newsletter that the CSA will give you. It usually has relevant recipes (see Two Small Farms website for example).

              Families that don't cook much, are uncomfortable with new veggies, and are unwilling to pay more than the bare minimum for food, in particular will have trouble adjusting. Some coworkers who dropped out after a couple of weeks, cited primarily unfamiliarity with the vegetables and secondarily price. Vegetarians and young families that eat at home alot tend to do adjust more easily.

              People who stick it out are the ones who learn that pretty much everything can be stirfried, roasted in the oven, and/or made into soup. For example, a janitor at work often picks up a basket. At first, I was concerned, because I thought it might be too much money for a woman from Mexico on a tight budget, but she insisted that she really liked how tasty everything was. I found that of all the people who tried the baskets, she was actually the one who was the most comfortable. Hideously bitter root she had never seen before? No problem--into a spicy stew with beef and beans that she made all the time anyway.

              11 Replies
              1. re: sfbing

                I had the same question about the turnips. (They wound up in a soup with leftover escarole and purple carrots.) But the bottom line is I eat a lot more vegetables because my fridge is full of them, and the fact that they're obscure adds to my interest.

                Just a note that Mariquita is one of the Two Small Farms. Their produce is exceptional and is served in many of the city's best restaurants. The CSA typically has a waiting list. The only downside is it's almost entirely vegetables. Incredible strawberries in the summer though. I believe the recipes are hosted on www.mariquita.com btw.

                The other key aspect of a CSA is where you live and how convenient it is.

                1. re: Windy

                  Yes, once you get the hang of it, the unfamiliar vegetables are the most fun. (I pickled some of my turnips with some orange juice and gin. And afterwards, I drank the pickle juice in a cocktail.)
                  One other thing is that you get a strong sense of the seasons in a not exactly enjoyable way. For example, in April, I was like "ooh strawberries and lettuce mix!". In August after I accumulated 5 bags of spring mix it was "I will die if I see another bag of lettuce!" Then in December I had a temper tantrum "Who can eat all this radicchio without any lettuce!"

                  1. re: sfbing

                    The surprise / adventure / random aspect of the box is a big part of why I subscribe. We pick up on Friday and I'll often dump everything out on the counter and improvise dinner.

                  2. re: Windy

                    I used to mash turnips with butter and green herbs. Yummy.

                    1. re: Kim Cooper

                      Just a friendly reminder, Folks, the focus of the S.F. board is where to find great food, whether at restaurants, retailers, or CSA's, etc. How you put the food to use is out of scope for this board, please feel free to share your recipes on the Home Cooking board, and discussion of food or cuisine in general on the General Topics board.

                      Thanks.

                  3. re: sfbing

                    We're in our 12th year with Two Small Farms, most of it as a Pick-up-site Host. I can't add much to the other posts except you might find that your food costs go DOWN because the vegetables are so good that the more expensive parts of a meal (meat, dairy, dressings and sauces) aren't needed nearly as much. Also, the need for Pharmacy aids for digestion, vitamin supplements will diminish or disappear completely. We eat less and less in commercial establishments because the best food is at home.

                    1. re: Rocksand

                      One interesting side effect of getting TSF's CSA box and this time of year, Mariquita's mystery box, is I now go to restaurants they supply, to research what real chefs do with the same ingredients.

                      I noticed Incanto had the same radicchio I'd just gotten in my box, and they said to make a salad with blue cheese. Maverick overcooked Mariquita's gorgeous red carrots.

                      Really good ingredients like these definitely do encourage eating in more, or at least eating more vegetables. Sometimes all you need to do is wash and slice.

                      And as Robert notes below, the savings over individually purchasing these items is significant. I was never willing to spend $4 a pound on tomatoes at Bi-Rite or Ferry Plaza, but I happily turn over $25 for a fridge full of organic tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc. For the price of one restaurant dinner, I have more than enough vegetables for a whole week.

                    2. re: sfbing

                      Thanks for the in depth review. Greatly Appreciated! I think now that I'm not quite ready to make that shift and use that amount of vegetables, but maybe someday.

                      1. re: rthorn46

                        When I first started and had trouble adjusting, I split my subscription with a friend so that we each got a basket every other week. That might help make it less intimidating when you do decide to give it a whirl.

                        1. re: sfbing

                          Yes, that's what I do. Highly recommended, especially if you don't have a big family.

                        2. re: rthorn46

                          Grab a few friends and split one! My first year 4 of us shared one. We rotated the pick up each week and had fun meeting and catching up once a week to divvy up the share. It was a great intro, leaving all of us loving it and wanting more! So the following year we split 2 shares amongst the 4 of us (1/2 share ea), and now we are all on our own single shares. lol. It's addicting! Also, some farms offer 1/2 shares. Enjoy!

                      2. I subscribed to Two Small Farms last summer, and the produce was great. After a while we got sick of summer squash and beets, though. I haven't had a beet since CSA season, and probably won't be craving them again for months.