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Mar 23, 2010 03:06 PM

CSA's in RI

Hey, just looking to get some feedback on community supported agriculture programs in RI. I am thinking of participating in one this year, but am not sure if its worth it. The ones I looked at were about $30 a week, is that going to give me a comparable amount of fruits and vegetables I could buy on my own and will it be a nice variety? Let me know what you think, thanks!

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  1. In general, my experience--across the board with several CSA programs--is that they are a very good deal in terms of the cost vs. what it would cost to buy the same at the farmers' market. Of course, one needs to bear in mind that the CSA model does not guarantee a good deal. In a good season you benefit from the surplus and in a difficult season you take a little bit of a hit. I don't mention this to scare you off, but just to be realistic about the CSA model, where you're really in a mutually supporting partnership with the farmer.

    Similarly, the variety depends a lot on the season. Last year late blight hit hard, which meant very few tomatoes and potatoes. However there were copious greens. Also, there will inevitably be weeks (often toward the beginning and end of the season) when the variety is relatively low -- that's just the nature of eating seasonally.

    Personally, I find CSAs to be a satisfying experience and an excellent value. I'm also admittedly somewhat biased, being involved in the local food movement. Just make sure you do your homework to understand how the CSA model works, so that you're not surprised in the middle of the season.

    1. I signed up for my first CSA this year which will start in June in Portsmouth. i am so excited for all the fresh veggies and the challenge of coming up with recipes for whatever is fresh that week. That was interesting feedback from Celeriac about the affect of Mother Nature on how much you will receive. In the end, I'm not too concerned about the cost, but happy to be supporting a community farm and getting some really fresh produce. Hope we have a good season!

      1. I have been researching CSA's also. I am debating between Ledge Ends in East Greenwich and 4Friends in Cranston. I am a bit confused about WishingStone's debit program. I don't know how that is different than just going to a farmers market. Has anyone participated in a CSA with these farms?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jade280

          I've actually done both Ledge Ends & Four Friends. Of the two, I think Ledge Ends definitely provided more, in terms of both quantity and variety. But I was able to get an egg share from 4 Friends, which I loved. And, this is just strictly my personal opinion, I really loved the people who run 4 Friends. I didn't get as much of a "warm and fuzzy" feeling from the Ledge Ends folks, if that makes sense. And on a purely logistical item, pickup was easier for me at 4 Friends than Ledge Ends.

          Good luck! They were both definitely worth the cost, so you won't go wrong, whichever one you pick

        2. My family has gotten a half share from Simmons farm for the last three years and could not be happier. As celeriac noted at the beginning of the season the variety is lacking, but once summer is in full swing that is not remotely an issue. I also like the challenge of incorporating whatever is in the box into next weeks menu. I have ended up working with produce I didn't know existed pre-CSA. I understand that is not for everybody. Many CSA's offer a fill your own box option.

          1. Do it -- you won't be disappointed!
            I've been splitting a half-share with a friend for the last two seasons (we're both single so even a half-share might be overkill), and it amounts to about $135 for twenty weeks of fresh food. I couldn't be happier with the GORGEOUS, extremely fresh veggies, the variety of what's available, and the personal meetup with "my" farmer week after week, which allows me to ask questions about varieties, preparation, and uses. Also, the food I get in my CSA stays fresher for longer because it's picked immediately before I get it.
            My CSA choice is Big Train Farm, which offers a pickup at Bell St. Chapel just off Broadway in Providence. Very convenient spot and John (the farmer) is such a nice guy. He really takes extra care with cleaning and presenting his veggies and they taste amazing. No matter who you choose, though, I think you'll enjoy the CSA experience. Can't recommend it highly enough.

            1 Reply
            1. re: localfood

              We've done CSAs for a few years and love them. You really do get quality that is hard to imagine if you're used to grocery store produce. It was a lovely realization! That said, be choosy about where you put your money. Not all CSAs are run the same. For exrample, some provide you with a pre-filled box, while others allow you some selection as to the foods you receive. To us, the choice is really important, as some veggies will simply waste away in the fridge (say, turnip), and we'd rather not waste. On the flip side, some folks love the surprise of receiving "farmer's choice", so its really about your preference.. We've just switched to Big Train ourselves, so we're thrilled to read the positive review above. FYI- It might be helpful to swing by the Winter Farmers Market in Pawtucket. Some of the CSA farmers are there, and it might be useful to meet them in advance or check out their wares.