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Tell me about your CSA, please....

This is the first year that I've done the CSA box. I signed up for a full share from Celestial Harvest CSA. After receiving delivery # 6, I'm really beginning to wonder whether it was worth the money. Even though my back yard garden has green beans and small tomatoes, I'm getting an overload of greens in my CSA box. I do like greens, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

For example, here is what was in this week's box:
-3 bunches of beet with greens
-2 bunches of collards
-2 bunches fennel
-1 bunch of kale
-1 bunch of swiss chard
-2 cucumbers
-2 1/2 pt containers of black currants
-1 bunch of basil
-1 bunch oregano

I was wondering if anybody wanted to share what they are receiving in their boxes? I know it's been a difficult summer for MN farmers, but I was wondering if the grass was really greener in somebody else's CSA box...

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  1. Definitely not greener here.

    I have a half share with Easy Bean Farm (Minnesota). The farmer has lamented the troublesome weather. Yields are down from past years. Boxes are skimpy. Last week: one bunch of chard, one bunch of beets, one bunch of onions, one bunch of broccoli.

    Based on some of the letters from the farmer, it appears he has been fielding complaints, some where people askied for their money back. The shareholders don't grasp the concept of what a shareholder is--you share in the harvest, but also the risk. The farmer is a little whiney, though. I just go with the flow.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Brad Ballinger

      Brad,

      We used Easy Bean Farm as a CSA two years ago - and I can say from experience that it is awful. They are disorganized, have no irrigation system, and generally are a poor (in my opinion) CSA in MN. Your box last week sounds worse than the leftovers at the food shelf. Sounds like you are more easy going - and that works for you. Just a thought - to look around next year and make sure EBF still fits your need.

      We are now with Community Homestead in Osceola, WI and are much much happier. Our box (picked up this am) - half share:
      12 small potatoes
      1 lg. onion
      1 head garlic
      3 shallots
      3 zucchini
      1 kohlrabi
      1 bunch basil
      1 bunch dinosaur kale
      1 bunch lettuce
      1 celery
      1 lg cuke
      1 bag of purple long beans
      1 bag of green beans
      5 carrots
      1 pepper

      That is a half share, weekly from late May to early Oct. I know everybody has diff. needs - and expectations - but overall, I think you should be getting quite a bit more from your CSA than a whiney farmer and a skimpy box. All farmers should be adapting their crops to what seems to be a fairly consistent pattern of weather the last few years.

      1. re: MSP Flyer

        Thank you for this reply. I am easy going about this overall. I've never farmed, and don't envy what farmers on any scale face.

        1. re: MSP Flyer

          Wow, that's a half share? That's about as big as our full box from Harmony Valley (which, BTW, I have been very happy with - the quality is excellent, and they're very organized)!

      2. I'm a first-year participand in Harmony Valley Farms (western Wisconsin) so I don't have past years to compare. We get a full-share box every other week.

        Saturday's box was:
        - (3) Spanish onions
        - (1) nice size bunch of green top carrots
        - (1) bunch of Yukina savoy
        - (1) very small head of broccoli
        - (1) bag of salad mix
        - Red potatoes (about a dozen)
        - (1) good-sized bag of green beans
        - (4) small yellow squash
        - (1) cucumber
        - (1) small bunch of red beets
        - (2) nice bunches of fennel
        - The "choice" for the week was a very large help-yourself container of beautiful basil

        Don't know if you'd qualify this as greener than yours, but I also know it's been a rotten/weird growing season.

        Hope this helps you!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Monch

          We also have shared a share from Harmony Valley. We are each only a two person household, so it works well for us. We love it, and even though it is more expensive than the other CSAs, we did our research and felt like the longer season and wider variety made it worth it.

          1. re: Monch

            We're in our second year with Harmony Valley Farm,and alternating every other week with a neighbor. Like CheeseGuysGirl said, I think they're one of the the more expensive ones but I knew that they were one of the more established CSA farms in the area and so I thought they'd know what they were doing so it was worth the premium.

            It's been interesting to hear what others are getting in their boxes; unless you know someone who can personally recommend a CSA farm based on their experience with it, it seems like it's kind of a crap shoot.

          2. Greetings from Southwest Lower Michigan. My CSA is Eater's Guild, and I would have to say that greens, greens, and more greens are pretty par for the course. I've grown to love them and get wiggy if I manage to use them all up before my next box. Our growing season has been late and odd as well. So far this season we've had lots of greens, radishes, basil, asparagus, some strawberries, etc. When peak season hits, you won't wonder wether it's worth it anymore.

            Anyway, in last week's box (we have a half share), I got one bunch of beets, some summer squash, two heads of broccoli, salad greens, a bunch of kale, and a cute little savoy cabbage. This week, baby potatoes are supposed to make an appearance.

            Anyway, I would recommend that you give it a little time. The CSA thing takes some getting used to, and it sounds as if the growing season has been harsh in Minnesota this year. Some things that are aggravating you with their regular appearances right now might wind up becoming favorites that you crave during the long months of winter. Look to websites like this for extra recipe recommendations so things don't get monotonous. of course, I have no idea what you're paying for your CSA, but ours is pretty darned reasonable and we more than get our money's worth. You do have to be a pretty devoted cook to make use of it all, though, so if you don't find yourself eating at home all that often, it may not be worth it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dingey

              I am in SE Michigan as well. Mine was $350 for the summer.
              This growing season has been terrible, but I have been greatly disappointed (a share was supposed to feed 4).
              Every week has seen a good amount of greens and herbs (can't complain about that).
              In 8 weeks I have seen the following (besides greens, IN TOTAL):
              4 small white radishes
              4 small red radishes
              Just under a quart of snow peas (spread over 3 weeks)
              3 very small red beets
              1 quart of new potatoes
              2 small zucchini
              2 small onions
              1 fresh garlic
              1 Kohlrabi

              I really hope for better quantity the rest of the summer, but I am not sure I will do this again - it is just easier and cheaper to go to my local farmer's market (which is closer then the CSA) and buy exactly what I want.

              dingey - You half share is almost as much as I have recveived in total for 8 weeks in my $350 full share. www.sunshinemeadowsfarm.com

            2. I wouldn't take this summer as an indicator of the quality of anything. The only part enjoying the weather this year has been bugs. If you are waiting for tomatoes, you are not the only one.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kevin47

                I'm glad we're not the only ones.....our tomatoes are taking FOREVER! I think it's due to the abnormally cool temperatures we've had this July. Just not warm enough consistently, not enough humidity (although I can cut the air with a knife today...)

              2. Hi all, first year with a CSA and we joined through the local grocery store. I am disappointed since it was advertised as LOCAL farmers (hey, we live in KS/MO!) and we've been getting stuff from Iowa (I love Iowa, but come on).

                We pay $25/week and I feel it's not worth it for us as we get things we don't need such as fresh herbs (we have those in pots), potatoes (I don't eat), odd jams/soap.
                For awhile, we got eggs, milk, and protein, but not in the last month. In fact, most of the veg is kind of overripe.
                At first, they let us swap out and now they will not. So, I am not continuing next year. I w ill just be more proactive about going to the farm stands and morning markets...

                2 Replies
                1. re: stellamystar

                  That is strange - I've never heard of a CSA share being composed of items from multiple farmers regularly. You might want to look at one of the national CSA directory websites and go directly through an individual farmer, as I believe that is the more standard definition of CSA. Maybe it varies based on where in the country you are - but to me part of the appeal is that you are supporting an individual farmer who grows a wide variety of produce, which is healthier for the farmland and offers them more profit stability than mono-crop farming. You are also cutting out any middlemen. What that grocery store sounds like it is doing is repackaging local(ish) produce as CSA - but perhaps taking a markup too. Which is probably fine if it helps them support local farming but isn't quite the same... However, swapping isn't really very common no matter what kind of CSA you have.

                  Here is a definition page as well as a directory. I've not used this particular directory but I imagine it is the same idea as the MN one I've used.
                  http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

                  1. re: Jitterbug

                    Stellamystar, I've been doing the same grocery store CSA for the 3rd year in a row and I would have to say this year's weekly offerings have not been very interesting to me either. In previous years, I would only have to exchange 1 or 2 items and this year, there were so many things I was not interested in, I chose not to pick up. It is surprising they are not letting you swap out anymore, especially since you swap it out.In the past, you would have to tell them what you wanted to swap out and I felt a little funny about it and sometimes they gave bad product, Now that they let you do the swapping, I feel I can be more leisurely (as much one could be with a fidgety toddler) in picking out substitutions.

                    While it seems my relationship with this grocery store CSA is running its course and I'm probably not going to renew next year, there were a couple of things I liked about it. I liked how easy it was to eat/buy local. I didn't have to go out to some dirt road in the middle of nowhere at 2pm on a Wednesday or get up early on Saturday and have cash on me. I liked many of the products they offered (though there were a couple of duds) and I would have not tried if they were not in the bag. I liked that this CSA offered milk, meat and eggs. Picking up a bag with all these food groups made food shopping a lot easier and it was fun trying to make meals out of what was in the bag.

                    But I agree, some of the produce is not terribly local. I bought corn off a truck this week that was much closer and cheaper and it was delicious. When we first had the Nebraska candy corn from the CSA we were amazed by the taste. But having the truck corn this week was another revelation that I shouldn't wait for my csa to eat yummy corn.

                    As for Jitterbug's comment on what is really a CSA. From what I understand, the Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF) brand was established to help brand small farmers and help them sell products to the supermarkets. The grocery store is the middleman but they are facilitating the farmers distribute and market their produce and making it easy for customers to purchase their foods. As a consumer, sometimes I am too busy to research and try different farms but seeing a GNFF product, I may be more likely to try it because of my past experience with other products under that brand.

                    I think there are more local food enterprises in KC now making eating local easier. There's one that delivers a box to your door but I can't recall the name, but in my quest to simplify my life, I may try it next year.

                2. I think what you are experiencing is pretty normal - our CSA has said that this year has been hard, the cool weather means more greens and the warmer weather crops are coming very slow. In past years I've gotten tons of greens in the first few weeks, but then it slows down. this year they have gone on much longer.

                  I will say however that even in the best years I know I could get veggies much cheaper by going to the farmers market. I guess I choose the CSA because it saves me time and I like the idea of supporting a farmer through thick and thin, to really invest in them and the environment. It has also encouraged me to learn to eat and cook things I might have not otherwise have tried, and I've learned a lot about growing seasons and farming through reading the CSA blog/ newsletter.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jitterbug

                    I choose the CSA over Farmer's Market as well, thinking that it would save me time.
                    In reality, the CSA is 20 minutes from my house, and the farmer's market is 5 minutes away.
                    Next year I will probably choose the farmer's market only, as I am now having to do both because of the meager offerings of the CSA.

                  2. We use http://www.mhonpajgarden.biz./ which is a new CSA this year. We have done two others but by far this was the best. Less Kale and Greens and more food we can use. Pea's, Green beans etc.

                    1. It has been a green heavy year hear in east central Iowa as well. A lot of cabbage and broccoli, kholrabi, and there is always a ton of chard, kale and collards. We're getting green beans, potato, and onions as well as herbs. It's a cool summer so things like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers aren't ready yet, and sweet corn is just starting. I know it's a drag when you keep getting greens, but remember part of joining a CSA is assuming some of the risk of the farmer. There is no controling weather and pests. I would assume most, and know my CSA (ZJ farms) do there best to provide something each week even when things go horribly awry. Greens grow quickly so they fill in when the other stuff isn't there. I know it can be a bummer, but stick with it or talk to you farmer to see if this is unusual.

                      1. Thanks everyone for their replies! It's been really helpful to know I'm not the only one who feels a little skunked about their weekly deliveries. (The math works out that our CSA was $500/summer, about 20 boxes, so $25/box.)

                        CSAs are a gamble, but the idea behind them is great. This year, I've already given the farmer my money and I'm not asking for a refund. I'm just going to try to be more patient and keep eating my greens. Sauteed greens, boiled greens, greens in salad, etc, etc.

                        I'll probably switch CSA subscriptions next year, so it's nice to know who is really pleased with their farmers.

                        1. Curious to know if anyone in Rochester MN joined a CSA? Would love to hear your experience.