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Organic Produce Delivery

anneliesz Aug 27, 2009 05:53 PM

I love the weekly trek to the Farmer's Market but have begun toying with the idea of ordering weekly organic produce delivery. A friend seduced me with it by talking about what a surprise exist in each week's offerings. I think it will also continue fueling my creativity and exposure to other veggies and fruits- the only thing is I'm not sure of which one to go with. I searched the SF thread and came up dry. Any suggestions?

  1. Ruth Lafler Aug 27, 2009 06:01 PM

    Try doing a search for "CSA" -- here's one recent thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/35846

    1. a
      Allfrog68 Aug 27, 2009 09:29 PM

      I really like Eatwell. We get every other week boxes. Family of 4 w/ 2 small kids. Both parents work. Kind of weird to say but if I didn't have the kids I think I could cook enough to use a weekly box. Every other week is all we can manage now. We still go to Farmer's Market weekly for staple fruit like apples. I like the boxes because it has "forced" us to eat things I would have never of tried and hardly heard of in the past, like Kale. I'm now an expert at making 5 different Kale soups. Think overall this makes us eat much healthier since we try to use all that we can in creative ways.

      1. Robert Lauriston Aug 28, 2009 09:03 AM

        Do you live in San Francisco proper? Full Belly has a delivery option, but they don't do SF. Eatwell Farm, Terra Firma Farm, and Two Small Farms are all good and do SF, but don't offer home delivery, you have to pick up at a dropoff site.

        I don't know of any real CSAs that deliver in SF. Capay Inc. / Capay Fruits & Vegetables / Farm Fresh to You / Capay Organics purports to be a CSA but it's not really.

        1. s
          SarahKC Aug 28, 2009 11:30 AM

          Since you asked for an organic produce delivery rather than a CSA, let me throw Planet Organics into the mix. They deliver to our door which is a huge bonus for us. They are not a CSA and will have items like bananas. But the majority of their produce is from local organic farms and they will also deliver things like Marin Sun Farms meat. They are a produce delivery -- you agree to spend a certain amount of money each period and you choose what you get. It has kept us eating healthier and decreased the amount of errand-hours each week. Were there a CSA to deliver to our SF home we'd be keen but there is not.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SarahKC
            anneliesz Aug 28, 2009 03:52 PM

            Thanks everyone. I'm checking out the CSA's you've mentioned and am thinking about Terra Firma. I appreciate it!

          2. anneliesz Sep 1, 2009 04:54 PM

            Actually, I ended up going with Farm Fresh to You and spent a good 30 minutes chatting with one of their reps. at the Eat Real Festival this past weekend in Oakland. They deliver to homes or business addresses and have a really good offering of different sizes of boxes.

            17 Replies
            1. re: anneliesz
              h
              Handyman Sep 1, 2009 08:30 PM

              I have been using farmfreshtoyou.com for about a month. Though I am happy with their delivery, please note that they deliver in the middle of the night. If they say Tuesday delivery, like mine in San Ramon, be aware it arrives between 1130pm and 1 a.m. in my case. Sounds like they leave the farm after rush hour traffic for deliveries. Does your dog bark? Or a neighbors? They pick up your cardboard delivery box for reuse/recycle. Leave it out for them.

              Please re-read the last paragraph of Robert's message above. You do have a choice to order their Capay Valley box, all of which they grow themselves, otherwise their regular service is their own stuff mixed with stuff sourced from other farms, both out of area and out of state. The salesman did not point that out to me. Easy to switch on-line, and a great website that is responsive to your needs.

              I went to their open house, read as open farm, this past weekend, near Cache Creek Casino. Great people, nice hospitality, wonderful farm, and very helpful. Encouraged us to pick veggies in the field to try ourselves for sampling, plus take some home as samples. A great day in the hot weather was had by all. The heat probably kept some people away. Thaddeus, the major owner/boss/public face led our tour, one of three. He was great, and really filled you in on the details of running a farm and this business. I will say "BRAVO" to Thaddeus and his whole organization. They were top-notch. Who knew a candy stripe fig could taste like strawberry jam, warm and ripe right off the tree. Really. Simply amazing. Or 10 of them if you pleased. Can't wait for more in tonight's delivery. We brought home eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, figs, and grapes. Saw squash, the asparagus field, basil, carrots, citrus trees, and heard but did not see the pistachio tree/trees, but a visitor told us they were there. So in retrospect, it is a great place, great farm, great people. Will you like it? Don't know, but I was very happy.

              My only complaint before I changed to the "Valley box" instead of the regular box, was that some of their fruits/veggies are sourced from outside their farm. A minor quibble was the few strawberries or blueberries in two different deliveries were squashed and slightly moldy, though the rest were okay due to shipping/delay from other places. It was in looking at their newsletter that I realized the blueberries were from out of state and strawberries from Watsonville, so they were showing signs of shipping/date. I did not bring it to their attention, and probably should have, but I am willing to give them a break. Tonight starts the new service, which I initiated due to being educated by a past poster if you search the chow archive for "Farm Fresh To You" for the "Valley" box which is stuff grown on their farm. Easy to switch, deal with your account, vacation hold, delivery instructions, bill payment options.

              All in all, I like it. But I supplement it still by buying at farmers markets, etc as a box to feed four is not enough for my big eater, strictly vegetarian, home cook needs. But note that you can get delivery of bigger size boxes. I just choose not to.

              I look foward to hearing other opinions.

              1. re: Handyman
                Melanie Wong Sep 1, 2009 09:16 PM

                You beat me to it. I've been sharing a regular box with a friend who picked it for the home delivery option and account flexibility. But I have to say that there's something that's less than fresh and/or ripe in each delivery. Shriveled cherries from Washington, moldy onions, unripe grapes.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  h
                  Handyman Sep 2, 2009 07:24 AM

                  Lo and behold, I open my box of "Valley" assortment this morning, and on top, staring me in the face, is a truly rotten, hairy, moldy heirloom tomato. If this was just picked yesterday, that would not have happened. I am SOOOOOOOO disappointed. Sure seems like the boxes were put together earlier in the week or something. If this was picked yesterday, this would not have happened. Quality control is lacking obviously. I guess a written complaint to them is in my future.

                  1. re: Handyman
                    Melanie Wong Sep 2, 2009 01:39 PM

                    Which reminds me of the basket of orange-colored cherry tomatoes that were squishy and moldy. Had to throw half of them away.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong
                    m
                    Marc Wallace Sep 3, 2009 10:59 AM

                    I started buying from Farm Fresh at the beginning of the year and have had the same problem with quality. They're quite friendly, always chat, are accommodating at leaving out items you don't want (or even replacing them in the next shipment), but usually there is one dead item and another that starts going moldy in a day or two. Their packaging isn't great either; two times the strawberries were practically jam when they arrived. The peaches they have sent have always been rock hard.

                    I love the idea of the service, and did enjoy it for a few months, but no longer think the price/quality ratio is worth it. Perhaps they were just better in the winter when seasonal things are less crushable.

                    1. re: Marc Wallace
                      Melanie Wong Sep 3, 2009 05:38 PM

                      The Farm Fresh box delivered yesterday had squashed pears in it.

                      1. re: Marc Wallace
                        Melanie Wong Feb 18, 2010 12:26 PM

                        To offer a winter update, the collard greens grown by Capay were already yellow and dried out when delivered. Either these were picked several days earlier or the harvesters were desperate. This should never have made it in the box. And the avocadoes were bad too, soft and moldy.

                        OTOH, I have liked the cauliflower and rapini grown by Capay, mostly because they were actually fairly fresh. It is quite a contrast with the J & P Organics box. J&P's produce will keep for a week in the fridge if I don't use it right away. Whereas Capay's is on it's last legs when it gets to the consumer.

                    2. re: Handyman
                      Robert Lauriston Sep 2, 2009 09:04 AM

                      They don't grow all of the stuff in the Capay Valley box themselves, they also buy from other local farms such as River Dog and Full Belly. Other boxes include stuff from suppliers from Washington to Mexico, though this time of year (peak summer) most is local.

                      Capay Inc. is a big operation. They have 25 full-time and 50 part-time employees, 4,000 square feet of cold storage, and a retail store at the Ferry Building. They deliver to over 5,000 customers from Roseville to San Jose, but that's only 40% of their business: the rest is a wholesale operation selling barcoded produce. They just bought another 114 acres for $1.05 million.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        anneliesz Sep 2, 2009 01:16 PM

                        Interesting summation of their operations. They definitely seem well organized but I'm bummed about the rotten fruits. I may still try them out and see how it fares. Handyman, are you thinking of changing your service again?

                        1. re: anneliesz
                          Windy Sep 2, 2009 07:17 PM

                          For comparison, I've never had that problem with Two Small Farms or the Mariquita mystery boxes. Of course they rarely include fruit, but regular strawberries (occasionally very ripe, but never rotten) and lots of tomatoes. And many greens that suffer greatly once picked if not refrigerated or eaten.

                          1. re: Windy
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 3, 2009 10:42 AM

                            But neither Two Small Farms nor Mariquita deliver.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              s
                              sfbing Sep 3, 2009 02:48 PM

                              TSF has a lot of dropoff points in SF and it might be worthwhile to check out the list to see if one is close to your home.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                Windy Sep 3, 2009 06:56 PM

                                Where is the value in paying to have moldy fruit delivered, unless you are housebound?

                                I have three TSF locations within half a mile of my house, and an 8-hour window for pick up. I love going the farmer's market, but this takes less than ten minutes out of my life. I've done it on public transit and foot as well as with a car.

                                My guess is the quality control problem with FFTU isn't their refrigerators, but the fact that they're subcontracting part of the sourcing. That makes it much harder to manage when it's picked versus delivered.

                                That's precisely why giant grocery stores pick before it's tree ripened. No one would buy moldy/squashed items given a choice, no matter how nice the person selling them to you was.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Melanie Wong Sep 3, 2009 09:40 PM

                            Clearly Capay has found a business model that's scalable. I'm not going to fault them for being successful and providing a market solution. I wish that other farms would pay attention and could figure out a way to provide more service.

                            In parallel with the delivery from Capay, on alternate weeks, I've been getting a box that I split with the same friend delivered by J&P Organics of Castroville when I'm in Salinas. I think that they took a lesson from Capay. No contract required, order on a week by week basis, and the box includes mostly produce grown by J&P, plus produce that it trades with other small farms and/or picked-to-order produce from ALBA Organics. We had some valencia oranges a few times, which I'm sure aren't from the Salinas Valley, but they were so good, I meant to find out the source so I could get more.

                            In the Salinas/Monterey/Santa Cruz area, the $23 price includes home delivery. In contrast to Capay, the produce has been pristine and lasts quite well. It has been great to have local strawberries each time, and last week we had two cartons of glorious raspberries as well. I've taken photos of each week's box and should upload them for viewing. This has shown me what a CSA can be, and makes the Capay offering that much more disappointing.

                            I'm mentioning J&P because it also serves Palo Alto and Oakland via drop-off points. The website isn't up to date. J&P also runs a farmstand on the Stanford campus when school is in session.
                            http://www.jporganics.com/about.php

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              Melanie Wong Mar 9, 2010 03:07 PM

                              Starting this month, I've noticed that the emails that I receive from J&P Organics state that payment can be made by cash, check or WIC. Kudos to J&P Organics farm for making it possible for low-income women, infants and children to use their WIC vouchers to buy fresh produce!!!

                          3. re: Handyman
                            Shrinkrap Sep 2, 2009 09:38 PM

                            I've been getting deliveries from "Farm Fresh To You" for four or more years. I get some duds, but it really works for me. I also grow my own, and shop the local farmers market.

                            1. re: Handyman
                              p
                              pcdarnell Sep 3, 2009 03:35 PM

                              I've been getting FFTU for about a year delivered to my office which is always during business hours, nothing left outside. I haven't had any quality issues until this week where several of the tomatoes were smashed.
                              I did complain once by e-mail that it was tomato season and I wasn't receiving any, and they e-mailed right back and said they'd make a note to add extra tomatoes in my box for for a while.
                              I get the regular box every other week, but now that I see the mention of the Valley Box, I think I'll switch. I don't like getting Washington State cherries when I can get decent ones right here, for example.

                          4. o
                            originalfig Sep 3, 2009 06:08 PM

                            I've been getting a large Farm Fresh to You box delivered every other week for the last two years. When the hot weather started inland this summer I got some moldy veggies - broccoli and lettuce, mostly - and was thinking of canceling. Then Thaddeus wrote everyone in the weekly newsletter to explain that they had an issue with their cooling rooms and he had ordered another cooler pronto. Quality has been much better in recent weeks, though I did get a tomato that was a little squishy the other day.

                            But in general I'm very happy with FFTY. The variety of produce is excellent, and there are often wonderful treasures in the box - unbelievably fresh & vibrant purple basil, green garlic in springtime, etc. Plus lots of great staples and "mainstream" veggies and fruits.

                            They are a family-run farm and I take my hat off to them for making their business work - it's unbelievably hard to make a living as a farmer and I my feeling is, if they are buying more acreage, hats off to them. Wonderful to hear of a small-scale family farm expanding in this age of industrial agriculture.

                            1. b
                              Bigshadetree Sep 3, 2009 07:43 PM

                              Until 2 months ago I was signed up with Riverdog farms. Deliveries were made on Wednesdays to a pickup point in my city - only 1 mile from home. I never had a problem with any of the produce being squashed or moldy. Since you are not able to choose what is delivered each week you may end up with 1 item (usually 6 to 7 items) that you might not really use - i.e. large bunch of Chard or Kale. But then again it might be something new that you would like to try i.e. fresh beets (got hooked on beets and fresh peas). The only reason I stopped ordering was because I love going to the farmer's markets. I ended up buying too much, and often times would be buying from Riverdog's booth at the Berkeley Saturday market anyway. Service and product was very good - especially apricots, asparagus, beets and peas.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Bigshadetree
                                Junie D Sep 4, 2009 12:29 PM

                                I have subscribed to Riverdog on and off for several years (usually stopping when my garden was full), but I just canceled my box. Let's just say I'm bitter. I had enjoyed participating: reading about the farm in the newsletter each week, opening a box of unknown produce and deciding what to cook, etc.

                                But I felt the quality and freshness slipping. It has been the summer of flabby cucumbers, overripe melons, and no big tomatoes only little ones (which I cynically assume to be the castoffs. ie, sell the big beautiful, tasty tomatoes at the FM and throw the rest in CSA boxes - yes, little tomatoes can be delicious too, but where are MY Cherokee Purples????).

                                Lately I didn't feel like what I got each week was worth $20, and decided that if I were shopping more at the Farmer's Market I would be more likely to get good quality, fresh produce, rather than having to accept a box on Thursday that was probably packed on Tuesday.

                                1. re: Junie D
                                  a
                                  annec Sep 4, 2009 03:42 PM

                                  I don't think you are far off. We have been dealing with that with Riverdog too. We do have way less tomato quality/variety than last year. Their prices went up this year too. We used to get their eggs, but they discontinued the CSA egg program in favor of selling only at farmers market. I can't make it over to Berkeley FM.

                                  That said, I continue with Riverdog because I mostly enjoy what I get, surprises and all, and use lots of it. I love the CSA philosophy and support it. I like that they exchange with other farms to provide variety in the box.

                                  I think it is inherent for any CSA to have a packing day prior to delivery days. They can't be picked and packed same morning, imagine the inefficiency of logistics.

                                  1. re: annec
                                    Junie D Sep 4, 2009 04:32 PM

                                    I agree with you about supporting CSAs and was sad to cancel. I have been a big fan of Riverdog. Maybe this is growing pains, as they have been expanding with products like the pork, and seem more committed to their FM and retail sales than I perceived before. I thought canceling eggs to the CSA was a real shame.

                                    I'm definitely not expecting my Thur. box to be packed Thur., but since they deliver elsewhere Wed, I suspect the Thur boxes are 2 days old when I get them. Maybe I'm wrong. Regardless of when the boxes are packed, wilted and overripe produce is never a good thing.

                                    Hopefully feedback from CSA participants will change things.

                              2. Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2009 09:25 AM

                                Capay's marketing person said they grew from 300-400 boxes a week in 2004 to 2000 last September to 3000 now (and "could easily deliver 10,000 boxes a week"). That probably explains the quality-control problems.

                                http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/pdf/Dav...

                                I think most CSA farms reach their capacity and are happy to have a sustainable business, e.g. Mariquita which built up its CSA and restaurant supply businesses to the point that they could stop selling at farmers markets. Capay Inc. instead keeps growing. That might be because it's owned by four families (the sons of the founders) rather than one.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  o
                                  originalfig Sep 4, 2009 12:05 PM

                                  That's a good point about four families instead of one (though are all four of the sons owners of the business? I had the impression that just two were involved today.) More mouths to feed, more kids to send to college one day!

                                  I think maintaining quality as an artisanal business grows is challenge in just about any business. I also think that it is absolutely critical for quality-obsessed, ethically-run organic farms to scale up in this country in order to provide a more competitive and ubiquitous alternative to the unhealthy, unsustainable practices of chemically based industrial agriculture.

                                  So, when I see a ethical, responsive, customer-focused family farm like Capay/FFTY doing a great job - both in delivering my produce every week and in growing their business - I cheer. I think there is a romantic notion (akin to that regarding tiny wineries) about the farmer-hero cherishing every turnip her or she sells and singing it to sleep-- but the reality is that agriculture is a brutally competitive, low-margin business subject to the vicissitudes of weather, and that most tiny farmers with tiny businesses would love to find greater efficiencies by growing and selling more.

                                  Marquita has clearly decided that the higher volumes and steadier business of the restaurant trade is their business model; I think it's fantastic that Capay is confident enough about future consumer demand for CSA boxes that they are investing in filling this need.

                                  I am a sticker about quality in my produce, and I would not be defending them if I didn't think that the product generally measured up. I also think it's easy to romanticize the smaller-is-always better model. One reason I love the Capay box is the fantastic variety of produce I get in it - something that's much harder to deliver if everything is coming from one tiny field.

                                  1. re: originalfig
                                    Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2009 12:32 PM

                                    For variety I go to the farmers market. What I like most about my CSA subscription is the connection with a particular farm, so I see what's happening through the seasons. I also like saving 30% compared with the market.

                                    I don't think Capay's doing a great job compared with real CSAs like Full Belly and Mariquita. Full Belly costs me $16.50 a week, FFTY charges almost twice that. Even with delivery, FFTY would cost a third more.

                                    "Their four sons and two of their wives are the new force responsible for making the farm operations run smoothly and continuing its legacy: Che, who serves as an advisor to his siblings; Noah, Che’s twin brother, who manages all sales from the farm; Thaddeus, who manages production; his wife, Moyra, who markets Farm Fresh to You; Freeman, who manages distribution; and his wife, Carol, who helped open a company store in San Francisco."

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      o
                                      originalfig Sep 4, 2009 01:27 PM

                                      Yeah, I'd have to say those are the two biggest motivators for me, as well - a connection to the seasons, and savings versus the market. Also, for me, the convenience of delivery is huge, too....

                                      I so wish Fully Belly delivered to SF....I adore their produce, pick it up in my neighborhood (Cole Valley) at Real Foods on Stanyan. It's always exquisite.

                                      I think it would be interesting to order several boxes from different vendors for few weeks and compare. Might make an interesting blog story for someone- quality, quantity and cost of the various Bay Area options...

                                2. b
                                  Brandon Nelson Sep 4, 2009 09:53 AM

                                  I have used Riverdog Farms before and been very pleased with them.

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