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Mar 13, 2010 02:25 PM

Any feedback on CSAs (community supported agriculture)?

Here is a list:

From what I've heard and experienced this is the best method of aquiring produce in San Diego. It's cheaper than Farmer's markets and often more nutritiious than store bought food because of the conventional travel time (from other countries or regions) and time between harvesting and sale. We are extremely lucky to have so many farms in San Diego that can offer produce year round.

Nonetheless, this creates options. The CSAs have various drop off locations, prices, configurations, produce offerings, contractual commitments, flexbility, etc.

As such, I'm wondering which one to go with. Any feedback would be great!

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  1. You'd have to figure out which ones deliver closest to you - I doubt there are people who have tried multiple CSAs for a good comparison. Probably best to either contact them directly or ask your neighbors.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hye

      We signed up for a 4-week trial at Seabreeze and I cannot say that I am very pleased with it. I chose them because they deliver to your door and with work schedules, I knew it would be difficult to pick up mid-day at some of the drop locations for other CSAs. For example, for approximately $60/week (I chose large box with fruit) last week I received maybe 2-3 oranges, 3 apples, 2 avocados, 1 tomatoe, 6 small carrots, a bouquet of flowers and a bunch of different greens. The quality is great, everything is tasty, but I feel like the price is very excessive for what you get. For me personally, I am not a huge fan of cooked greens (and I am not sure that swiss chard and the like are very tasty raw), so the offerings have not been to my liking. I also know that for $60, I could go to the farmers market and get a LOT more for $60.

      However, I cannot always make it to the farmers market and having this box of veggies and fruit "forced" upon me has resulted in me eating many more veggies and fruits, so I do not consider it a total failure. I signed up for Be Wise Ranch, which requires a pickup but the location is right on my way home from work so it should work. It looks to be about half the price so hopefully this one works better for me.

      1. re: pooch

        I'm actually getting my first pickup from Be Wise Ranch on Thursday, so I'm eager to see what I get. I'm splitting the large box with two friends, but judging from the website, it seems like there's a lot more there than what you got from Seabreeze, and at half the cost.

    2. Specialty Produce has started their own CSA-style program. Here's a link to their web page about it -

      It appears all you have to do is place your order by midnight on Sunday for pick up at Specialty Produce on Morena Blvd. the following Thursday/Friday. They even have a little video each week showing what will be in the box as well as telling you exactly where (as in which farm)each item comes from. The produce is organic, local and sustainable. The price is $20/bag + you get the option of order additional items individually, bread from Bread et Cie and fish from Catalina Offshore.

      20 Replies
          1. re: stevuchan

            Yeah, I was impressed too. I think I heard about it through Slow Food Urban San Diego. I'm definitely going to give it a go, probably next week...(if I can remember to do the order on Sunday <gg>)

            1. re: DiningDiva

              This looks really amazing. The options of bread, coffee, seafood, and cheese really make this unique. Thanks for sharing!

              1. re: DiningDiva

                wow great find Diva! We live close by so that could work great. Can anyone personally attest to the quality/sources of their produce from the last year or so?

                *Edit* the website says the pickup is on Hancock St. south of Washington, not Morena Blvd. Darn.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  I actually remembered and placed an order for the SP Farmer's Market Bag along with 2# of fish from Catallina.

                  Pick up is this Thursday or Friday. Will know shortly if it's as good as it sounds.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    We placed an order, too. I'll try to remember to pick it up on my way home from work Thursday.

                    1. re: The Office Goat

                      I signed up for text reminders. I will definitely forget by Thursday without them :-)

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        Looks like this is what we're getting this week:

                        Red Chard from Coastal Organics
                        Mint from Rutiz Farms
                        Mixed Cherry Tomatoes from Jaime Farms
                        Blood Oranges from Rancho del Sol
                        Lyon Artichokes with Stem from Life's a Choke
                        Sorrento Lemons from Rancho del Sol
                        Baby Red Arrow Broccoli from Weiser Farms
                        Satsuma Tangerines from Garcia Organics
                        Assorted Baby Head Lettuce from Coastal Organics
                        Watermelon Radishes from McGrath Farms

                        1. re: The Office Goat

                          Thanks for the heads up. I can work with those ingredients :-)

                          1. re: The Office Goat

                            Got our veggies, fish and bread.

                            Cons: The place is much harder to find than I thought it would be (and not well-signed). To get in to where you get the food, you need to go about half a block north of the Noell intersection on Hancock past doors labeled with other enterprises' names and then you walk around the end of the building and find your way in. Once in there were no problems.

                            Pros: The cherry tomatoes, lemons and oranges all tasted good. All the other produce (haven't tried them yet) looks good.

                            The fish was fantastic: A huge slab of white seabass. Two adults and two kids couldn't finish it. We're having the rest tonight with the heirloom eggplants and the chard.

                            The baguette was nice, too.

                            I think we'll be ordering again.

                            1. re: The Office Goat

                              I just picked mine up today, and your description of finding the place was spot on, TOG. This, after I wound up circling a very large block, as I came down from Old Town Avenue. But, based on what I've seen so far, I'm very happy with the products, and really happy to know you enjoyed the fish. Guess I know what we'll be having for dinner this evening.

                              Thanks to DD for posting about this!

                              1. re: phee

                                I picked up my bag yesterday. I was going to post about how hard it is to find last night but got busy doing other things - like cleaning out the fridge to make room for all this stuff - and didn't get around tuit. Specialty Product shares a loading dock with the central kitchen for The Neighborhood house. If you are going South on Hancock, it is the next to last driveway on your right before you get to Noelle. If you're going North on Hancock, it's the 2nddriveway on your left after you cross Noelle. Turn in that driveway, park and walk all the way back to the trolley tracks. On the outside of the building are some stairs, take those. You'll see a sign that directs you to follow the blue footprints on the floor. The only problem with that is that the blue footprints are pretty much worn off, but once through the air screen it's pretty easy to see where to go. I would also suggest bringing your own reuseable bag, the brown bag I got had clearly seen better days. Both handles were broken making it awkward to carry.

                                I snacked on some of the cherry tomatoes whilst cleaning the fridge, along with the lone radish. Pretty good. Ina Garten has a roasted cherry tomato tart in one of her books, I may try that, or do some roasted skewers with them. Have already had several fo the Satsuma's and they were terrific, very sweet. The lemons will make an appearance with the fish tonight at dinner. The blood oranges might be a good excuse to buy a bottle of champagne (which, really, you don't need an excuse to buy champers) for some blood orange mimosas. Or barring that, perhaps some blood orange curd or pastry creme. Since I only cook for 2, 2# of fish is multiple meals for us.

                                I am not sure what I'll do with the chard or purple broccoli yet. They look beautiful. I'm sure I'll figure out something. The artichoke is amazing and I'll have no problem with that, nor with the lettuces. 1 of my little white heirloom eggplants was a bit on the withered side, but the rest look great. I'm going through my Crescent Dragonwagon cookbook - Passionate Vegetarian - to find some inspiration for them.

                                I think this is a managable amount of produce for a week for 2 people. We're not overloaded with greens and other weird stuff that you can only eat so much of before your palate revolts and says "enough already". But then again, we haven't hit zucchini season yet ;-)

                                All in all, this looks to be a good value for the quality and quantity of produce in the bag. I'm pretty sure I'm going to order again for next week.

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  I had a blood orange "margarita" while I was up in Santa Barbara last weekend, fantastic! Let me know how the local ones are.

                                  1. re: MrKrispy

                                    They were very good. Nice and juicy. I ended up making a citrus coffee cake with the juice (and rind) from the blood oranges. I was short a little bit on the juice so threw in some juice from a couple of the tangerines that came in the bag too. Really good...from a vintage recipe.

                                    I'm really liking this Specialty Produce farmers market bag. I reordered for this week and picked up yesterday...including a 2# add on of fish from Catalina Offshore. This week we got:
                                    Pencil Asparagus
                                    French Breakfast Radishes (yummy)
                                    Nantes Carrots (had some for dinner last night, sweet)
                                    Red Butter Lettuce
                                    Snap Peas
                                    Sorrento Lemons
                                    A bunch of dill
                                    A bunch of tarragon
                                    A bunch of baby leeks

                                    And the last item from last week's bag - an enormous artichoke - is cooking now and will be my lunch :-)

                                    Specialty Produce
                                    1929 Hancock St, San Diego, CA

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      We had the peas, carrots, and artichokes last night - steamed with nothing but a little fresh ground pepper, a salad with the lettuce and tarragon and sectioned tangerines, and the halibut from Catalina Offshore. That was one of the biggest pieces of halibut - took up nearly the whole grill. The Sorrento lemons made a nice garnish, as did the dill. We've been very happy with what we've received thus far.

                                      1. re: phee

                                        We're pretty happy with it too.

                                        We had some of the carrots last night and they were pretty sweet. I ate a few of the radishes when I was cleaning them, loved them. We're doing the halibut for Easter along with the asparagus. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try and to a Bernaise sauce to use up some of the tarragon, or go with a sauce using the dill. The lemons I think I'm going to turn into lemon curd. I got lots of lemons this week, no tangerines :-(

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          For the halibut last night, I used about half the bunch of dill and half the tarragon chopped up and mixed with some nonfat greek-style yogurt I had in the fridge, lemon juice and a couple tbsps of mayo, put that on the fish then sprinkled parmesan over that and baked it.

                                          Had the lettuce (and some leftover cucumbers) and tarragon for salad and we ate the whole baguette last night, too.

                                          Lunch today I sliced up some carrots and radishes with an olive oil/lemon juice/cider vinegar dousing.

                                          Tonight I sauteed the radicchio tonight with some olive oil and garlic and balsamic vinegar. It was pretty good with the leftover fish and rice from last night. Tangerines for dessert.

                                          I'm enjoying these bags. Just placed an order for next week a few minutes ago.

                                          1. re: The Office Goat

                                            One of the things I really appreciate about the bags is that it's not an overwhelming amount of produce to get through in a week. I'm only cooking for 2 and it's a managable amount of food to work through in 7-days. Also, for the variety, quantity and quality of what you get, it's a pretty good value at $20. Maybe not quite as good as what I can pick up at the farmers markets, but certainly close and a lot less expensive.

                    2. re: DiningDiva

                      It's a bummer that they require you to buy the produce to get the other items. I'm set for produce from my local farmers market (from farms considerably more local than their sources), but I would *love* to get the "catch of the day"...

              2. I started one with Suzie's Farm a little over a month ago and have been extremely happy so far. The price is reasonable, they have quite a few pickup locations now, you get a ton of vegetables, and the quality is great. So far it's all been winter veggies (lots of greens/beets/fennel) and I'm looking forward to getting more variety once it warms up.

                1 Reply
                1. re: DougOLis

                  Agreed! Suzie's is veggie heavy, but for $25 a box it's a great deal. We've never been so creative with our cooking. They're extremely welcoming to their new customers.

                2. I used to have a subscription with Be Wise (every other week, large box) and we really enjoyed it. I think you'll end up getting a lot of winter greens no matter what CSA you choose simply because that's what's being grown, but I also don't mind braised greens so maybe I just didn't notice it as much. I think Be Wise now provides more fruit that it did when I subscribed, although not as much as other CSAs (outside of SD, that I've read about). You do need to commit to your shares quarterly, but you have the option of cancelling 2 pick-ups when you get your quarterly invoice (pre-invoice?)

                  We had to stop simply because we started going out of town too often and didn't go through all our veggies. We could have switched to a small box, but I liked the variety of the large box. Now I shop at Henry's and supplement with the farmers market.

                  1. We are with Be Wise and like them very much. The produce has universally been excellent. They do offer more fruit now than in the past, although it has been mostly citrus lately. I split a biweekly large box with my husband and two friends, though I'd really like to switch to a weekly box.