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CSA 2011 Season

Smiles2008 Jan 22, 2011 12:18 PM

I am trying to get ideas for this year. I have done a CSA previously. What farms and ideas does everyone have that they can share?

I have looked at a lot of farms and right now I am thinking about going with Arganica Farm Club or Great Country Farms?

Thanks!

  1. r
    rlhall01 Feb 28, 2011 08:23 PM

    For A great produce CSA directly from the farmer himself check out Earth Spring Farm. They are located in Central Pennsylvania. They have two share sizes, an optional fruit share, and optional pasture raised meats and cheese. They deliver to sites in MD, DC and VA:

    http://www.earthspringcsa.com/content/9610

    Also Nearby is North Mountain Pastures a family based pasture raised meat CSA with drop off points at takoma park and bloomingdale farmers markets.

    http://northmountainpastures.com/members

    1. e
      Elyssa Feb 16, 2011 05:58 AM

      The DC JCC sponsors a CSA partnered with Licking Creek Bend Farm in PA. I've heard really good things about this CSA. This would be particularly good for people who live in the Dupont/Logan Circle area since the pick up is at the DC JCC on 16th Street.

      I personally haven't participated (I live alone and personally think CSA's tend to be too much food and too pricey for someone living alone) but you can find all the info here: http://washingtondcjcc.org/volunteer/...

      1. j
        Justbreathe226 Feb 10, 2011 11:48 AM

        I have done Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative in the 2010 season. I think it's worth it. A few coworkers got me into it and they love it. They also do a fruit share and a Community Supported Medicine program. I order a half share for my boyfriend and I and it's PLENTY of veggies. They have a few drop spots in DC.

        http://www.lancasterfarmfresh.com/sta...

        1. tcamp Feb 8, 2011 11:58 AM

          Just re-upped with farmer James Bourne (The Lamb's Quarter) who sells at the Old Town Alexandria Farmers Market. Love love love him and his veggies (and eggs). I do it for all the reasons in ABalliet's post above and I feel good that I'm investing in this farmer and his goods. I also like the challenge associated with making good use of the seasonal produce - lots of greens in the spring/early summer and squash in the fall. Last year I never once received spoiled or damaged produce from James.

          1. a
            ABalliett Feb 5, 2011 05:01 PM

            One thing that seems to be being missed in this conversation is that there are now a lot of produce resellers in the DC area who are NOT CSAs. More over, if you go for the 100mile definition of local food, they do not provide local food (that includes FOOD MATTERS, which is sourced out of PA, about 105 miles from DC) My recollection is that Great Country is that they are not organic. (I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that they aren't even uncertified organic. My apologies if I'm wrong about this)

            ANYWAY, if you join a real CSA, your food dollar does a lot more. If you don't think it's important for you to do what you can to preserve local farms and to have your own relationship with an actual farmer, look at what's happening to food and food prices worldwide! We need to do everything we can to assure that we have access to truly local food in the future.

            Here's a nice quote about CSAs from the Leaf for Life homepage:

            Community Supported Agriculture

            American farms have been disappearing at a dizzying rate since World War II. Since 1950 the price farmers pay for supplies has gone up steadily, while the price they receive has stayed the same or gone done. Farmers assume the greatest risk involved in supplying us with foods and reap the least benefit for their effort. No wonder they are going out of business.

            Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a movement that understands that we all lose when small family farms fail. It recognizes that under-rewarded risk taking and the excessive cut of the middlemen are killing our small farms and it offers a simple and practical plan to save farms.

            Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) began in the 1960's with a Japanese movement called teikei or "putting the farmers' face on food." It usually involves members supporting a small farm by buying a share in the total annual production of that farm in advance. In return for their investment, CSA members receive a box or bag full of fresh, locally grown typically organic produce once a week from late spring through early fall. This mutual relationship helps create economically stable small farms where growers have a guaranteed market for a wide selection of crops. CSAs are a great way to get the best fruits and vegetables for your table and to help strengthen the local farm economy at the same time.

            As of January 1999, there were over 1000 CSA farms across the US and Canada, and the movement is growing rapidly. CSAs usually offer their members some education about farm realities and many offer opportunities to share in the farm labor in exchange for lower produce costs. One benefit of this is that members have a better understanding and acceptance of produce with cosmetic imperfections, so less food is thrown away. Where farmers markets let the consumer meet the farmer, most CSAs let the consumer meet the farm.

            >>This is a far cry from a resellers vegetable delivery service!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: ABalliett
              Smiles2008 Feb 5, 2011 08:41 PM

              Thank you ABalliett-totally agree! That is exactly why I am so hesitant.

            2. v
              venera Jan 26, 2011 05:48 PM

              You didn't specify what area, so I'm uncertain whether this is relevant to you. However, I've been pleased as punch with my CSA, so I'm happy to advertise.

              I signed up for a fall share with Sandy Spring CSA. http://sandyspringcsa.com/j/

              It was my first time with a CSA, and I could not have been happier with the experience. I have already signed up for vegetable and an extra fruit share for the spring and summer.

              The veggies have always been top notch. Uber fresh and incredibly tasty. I was introduced to Tatsoi through them, as well as a number of squashes that I had never tried before. My husband was very leery of the whole concept, but agreed to give it a try. About two weeks into the share, he insisted that we signed up for the spring and summer.

              They get their products through the Lancaster Farm Cooperative. Every week you get an e-mail describing what will be in the forthcoming share. Then they send you a final list and a newsletter that interviews one of the co-op members and provides recipes related to items in the box. I have never had any management issues with them -- every time I go to my designated pick-up place, everything is set up as it should be.

              The taste of the vegetables is far superior to anything I've ever purchased in a store, and even some farmer's markets. I forsee participating in this CSA for a very long time.

              Good luck with your search.

              1 Reply
              1. re: venera
                a
                ABalliett Feb 5, 2011 04:55 PM

                Venera - Isn't it the case that this is the first year that Sandy Spring has used the Lancaster Cooperative? Previously, they were using that CSA outside of Baltimore, you know, that one that claims top fill 900 shares from 2 (or is it 5?) ACRES of ground?

                But the basic definition of "CSA" is a relationship between consumers and a farm and the farmer. But Sandy Spring is not a farm nor a farmer, it's just a reseller of wholesale vegetables, sort of like Safeway, ain't it? Except you get to pay in advance...

              2. j
                jayjaymom Jan 26, 2011 04:12 AM

                I'm not sure where you are, but I love Norman's, which has pick-ups in Bethesda and Silver Spring. You can buy a full or half share, you can choose from their stand, and they just opened sign-ups to non-returning members

                1 Reply
                1. re: jayjaymom
                  a
                  amarynth Feb 8, 2011 09:37 AM

                  Seconding this! We split a share from Norman's last year, and have signed up again this year. We loved that you could choose which items to wanted. Last year, they added fresh eggs late in the season and in the fall you could get cider or apple butter as one of your choices. You could also order a turkey or Christmas tree through them. This year, they've added an early spring pre-season that should have eggs, plants, strawberries, asparagus and greens.

                  http://www.normansfarmmarket.com/cont...

                2. a
                  Andye Jan 24, 2011 12:42 PM

                  I did Claggett Farm a few years ago. I really liked the produce - mostly vegetables and some herbs; no fruit. They let you pick up at the farm on Saturday if you missed your pick-up in Dupont Circle during the week. They also donate a lot of produce through the Capital Area Food Bank, and they're part of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Unfortunately, it was just incredibly difficult to make it to Dupont Circle before 7pm on Tuesdays to pick up my share. If you live or work close to Dupont Circle and don't have to fight traffic or the Red Line to get to their drop-off point, you might want to check them out.

                  1. s
                    SandyCat Jan 24, 2011 10:04 AM

                    I had previously used Arganica Farm Club because the folks were friendly and they delivered to your front door. I also had problems with my orders being incorrect, but I never had rotten produce like pegmo's experience. We tried it for a year, and it was nice to get that big box of seasonal produce and other goodies at your door. We were, however having problems keeping the produce good once we received it (horrible fridge at the apt we were at and a landlord who "fixed" it with caulk), so I'm not sure if we would've liked it better if we could've kept the produce for longer. We also could not rely on the CSA box for all our groceries because of cost, variable availability, and worry that the order would be incorrect, so we had to supplement with regular grocery shopping.

                    When our membership expired, we did not renew with Arganica because it just suits our lifestyle better to just go to the Dupont Farmers' Market (which is open year 'round) and Trader Joes, even though it is nice to have delivery. This way, we get to pick what we want in the quantity we want, and there are no incorrect orders!

                    However, I don't want to dissuade you from using the Arganica CSA based on our decision. It's definitely worth a try! Hopefully they've solved some of the order accuracy problems since I used it over a year ago!

                    1. h
                      hppyheather Jan 24, 2011 06:49 AM

                      I used Great County Farms last year and would SERIOUSLY recommend against it, at least if the reason you're doing CSA is to get quality fresh produce (I would say their farm visits, etc are nice for kids).

                      The problems with Great Country were 1) quality and 2) variety. As far as quality, our tuesday deliveries were often half filled with spoiled produce. Not just bruised, spoiled. For example, the ears of corn were infested with worms and squash was brown and rotten in the center. I believe that in many cases, they often harvested too early, so the edible produce that did arrive was often very unripe, small/still growing, and really lacked the whole "amazing taste b/c its ripe and fresh from the vine" aspect.

                      With respect to variety, we were hoping to get a good variety of in-season vegetables. What we got was the same vegetables week after week and too much fruit. For example, on our half share we received about 6 peaches a week for 6 weeks (note half the peaches were rotten in each delivery), and we received 2 tomatoes TOTAL. That was during the height of tomato season! Along with the peaches, we received bags of apricots and plums, and then a few usable vegetables. There really are only so many things you can do with stone fruits, and stone fruits don't offer the same benefits that we'd been hoping to get by getting great vegetables.

                      Maybe our experience was unusual, but I will say that we contacted the farm to talk about the spoiled/rotten produce issue, and they claimed that it was a fluke. They then proceeded to send spoiled produce for the rest of the season, so either it wasn't a fluke, or we just got really unlucky delivery boxes!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hppyheather
                        l
                        lblau Jan 24, 2011 07:48 AM

                        Sounds a lot like our most recent experiences with them. I think, with the need to keep veggies in the field for the 'you pick' and in the store, and the fact that some people get to pick up their shares at the farm and so can choose their own, we delivery folks got the bottom of the barrel.

                        I liked the stone fruits, but was very unhappy with the veggies both quality and quantity. We first used them many years ago (1998 maybe or 99) and things were much higher quality.

                      2. Smiles2008 Jan 23, 2011 05:42 PM

                        I recently/just looked at the one they have through this restaurant called Food Matters in Alexandria. I don't think they have a good portion (less than half a grocery bag is not enough produce for a full share) in my opinion. In addition, when I went to check them out for the csa I ate at the restaurant and the food was extremely bland. Bison Steak was tough, Bean Burger very bland and accompanied Fries were soggy. I don't know about Food Matters but it isn't for me.

                        1. s
                          shellymck Jan 23, 2011 08:18 AM

                          I love, love, love my CSA, Spiral Path Organics. The pickup site I use is Silver Spring and it looks like (at least this is news to me) that they are expanding to Bethesda for the new season. The produce is great, it is a good value compared to organic shopping at WF and I save time at the market with a grab and go pickup. I have been a member since they joined the Silver Spring market a couple of years ago and have never been disappointed and unlike what others describe above it's a very well-run, organized set-up.
                          http://www.spiralpathfarm.com/index.p...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: shellymck
                            d
                            Doh Mar 1, 2011 03:58 AM

                            Thanks very much for posting this. I have bought from them at the farmers market in the past, so this will be very convenient for us.

                          2. l
                            lblau Jan 23, 2011 02:06 AM

                            We used Great Country Farms a couple of different seasons in the past, but gave up after things went downhill. I think the biggest issue was that they have so many outlets for their produce, and the delivered boxes for the CSA seem to get the leavings. One summer we had terrific fruits, that they got from a neighboring orchard, but I dont think they're doing that anymore.
                            I purchased a groupon for Arganica and will give them a try this spring.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: lblau
                              Smiles2008 Jan 23, 2011 05:36 PM

                              Can you please explain what happened? I didn't realize that they used other farms.

                              1. re: lblau
                                Dennis S Jan 23, 2011 05:50 PM

                                We used Great Country two years ago and were very pleased. If anything though, we felt that to make the most of our dollar spent there was to actually go out there and do the picks (like during the week - not during any festivals!). With kids it was a tad difficult from Reston to do it as much as we would have liked.

                                1. re: lblau
                                  m
                                  mselectra Jan 24, 2011 09:28 AM

                                  I just wanted to point out that today Arganica is offering a Living Social coupon (I hadn't seen the groupon) which might be a good way to give them a try (as lblau is doing). I don't know anything about them, myself. If they're as disorganized as reported, the rush from these coupons could cause more problems, but still seems like a good deal, though.

                                  1. re: mselectra
                                    p
                                    pegmo Jan 24, 2011 02:20 PM

                                    It was living social that they had the coupon when I joined. They offered that to the richmond crowd this week, too. One thing to mention is meat is far less expensive at wash green grocer. The animals are all grassfed. They have a good explanation of what their philosophy is on that and its worth a read.

                                2. p
                                  pegmo Jan 22, 2011 07:08 PM

                                  I joined arganica about 6 weeks ago. They do not have their act together by a longshot and I am now even more concerned that they are expanding to richmond before ironing out the problems they already have. Every week there is some sort of problem with my order. Problems have ranged from rotten produce which I am now leary of ordering much of, to missing items that I was charged for, to bacon that was just a wad of blubber. Loved having to scale a filleted blue cod in my sink one night. Got granola one week, daughter loved it, ordered double the following week only to find out they had sent a substitute the first week and the second week was disgusting. The granola wasn't even broken up it was big sheets of an overly sweet fat laden oatmeal rock.
                                  Right now I can tell you the winners are the following in my opinion:
                                  Albemarle baking company's crunchy oatmeal bread and ginger scones
                                  Milk from grassfed cows that come in glass bottles trickling springs, I ordered their butter though and was disappointed it came in a tub which was not stated on order form and they gave me salted instead of unsalted.
                                  Seltzer in old fashioned bottles that is so fizzy and delish. The cherry tomatoes are hydroponic multicolored and so sweet they taste like august.
                                  You can buy a one month membership which I recommend if you decide to try them. Mine is up in june and jury's out on continuing. Right now I think I'm going to have had quite enough.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: pegmo
                                    Smiles2008 Jan 23, 2011 05:35 PM

                                    Thank you for your comments and review because they are very helpful.

                                    1. re: Smiles2008
                                      p
                                      pegmo Jan 23, 2011 07:45 PM

                                      You're welcome, fyi arganica uses other farms, coops, and an amish store. I checked out mscoffee's washingtongreengrocer.com today and registered with them. Its no contract or obligation. I'm going to order from them this week and see how they fair. Thanks to mscoffee! I will let you know how it goes!

                                      1. re: pegmo
                                        p
                                        pegmo Jan 27, 2011 03:00 PM

                                        Just want to say washingtongreengrocer.com delivered a couple of very nice boxes of produce, meat and dairy here yesterday and in 3.5 hours of veggie chopping I found nothing bad. Highlight for me are burgundy carrots. I will order from them again.

                                        1. re: pegmo
                                          m
                                          mscoffee1 Jan 27, 2011 03:33 PM

                                          I am so happy to hear it worked for you. I was washing and chopping on Tuesday. I did get extra tomatoes and they missed one of my broccoli bunches. Rarely does this happen and of course they do not charge.

                                          My post was deleted(trouble with my ID) so I will add it again. I like Green Grocer not only because it has no contract as you noted, but you can add or delete weeks depending on your needs. Also the flexibility to add and substitute items in the basic box is great for me and they deliver. They have been expanding items they carry (chocolate and olive oil were added recently). Their meat (locally raised grass fed meat and free-ranging poultry) is relatively new as well.
                                          From their website:
                                          Our priority and focus from the start has always been to provide excellent quality produce and locally and regionally produced products as well as stellar customer service to every customer while helping to grow, support and encourage sustainable local agriculture...and to have fun doing it!

                                          http://www.washingtonsgreengrocer.com/

                                          1. re: mscoffee1
                                            p
                                            pegmo Jan 27, 2011 07:45 PM

                                            I was wondering what happened to that post! I think the meat prices are pretty affordable for what they sell. I'm looking forward to some delmonicos I got. I agree with all you say here. Smile 2008, mscoffee is right. Try this first! There still are some things Arganica has that wash green doesn't, but here the veggies are better with the exception of the cherry tomatoes. WGG's are nice but Arganica's are the kind I wake up early to line up for all summer. Gave some of those to a dear friend who is often there with me and she went crazy like I did.what's great is that since wgg has no joiner fee or strings I can order the things arganica has let me down with and still order the trickling springs milk, baked goods from albemarle baking co and the pittsburgh seltzer, too.

                                            1. re: pegmo
                                              m
                                              mscoffee1 Jan 28, 2011 05:13 AM

                                              With you on the tomatoes. Yea, my friend stops for most of the summer. Haven't done beef, so let me know.

                                              1. re: mscoffee1
                                                p
                                                pegmo Jan 30, 2011 10:16 AM

                                                Delmonicos were very tender and flavorful. They are heavily marbled so there's some fat trimming, but that's part of the secret to being so tender. Final bill came in at $12.95 LB.

                                                1. re: pegmo
                                                  m
                                                  mscoffee1 Jan 30, 2011 05:14 PM

                                                  Sounds good. Thanks.

                                            2. re: mscoffee1
                                              a
                                              amarynth Feb 8, 2011 09:32 AM

                                              I wonder if they've changed since we ordered with them years ago. My impression was that a lot of the produce was the exact same stuff you could buy at Safeway (with the same stickers on them and everything). I know it's winter, but the list of items in this week's box comes from FL, CA, Mexico, Canada, WA, and SA! For those of you that use it, what's it like from June-Nov?

                                              1. re: amarynth
                                                r
                                                Raids Feb 15, 2011 08:47 AM

                                                Agreed - my bananas have Dole stickers on them, and they're...bananas. I also got a mango.

                                                To be fair, it was a great mango. And the apples and white mushrooms I received last week were respectively stickered and wrapped, but were better-tasting higher-quality produce than I could get at the grocery store. Green beans came in a bulk plastic bag, like you'd grab yourself at the grocery store and were *fantastic.*

                                                I looked at the website, and it says "During our local growing season, roughly June through November, we buy our produce locally." And supposedly the never air-frieght anything, even during the off-season. The only thing "local" this week are the russet potatoes and maitake mushrooms from Pennsylvania.

                                                1. re: Raids
                                                  p
                                                  pegmo Feb 15, 2011 05:45 PM

                                                  I'm on my second large organic box, my bananas are cerro azul from equador. I got very nice white buttons this week, but last week the creminis I ordered were so perfectly firm I think they were the best I've had ever. I agree on the green beans!the eggs are perfect. I can get eggs like this only one other place and that's. From someone we know with chickens and hers don't lay in cold weather! The porterhouse steaks are delish. We got them both weeks and have them ordered for next. One thing I'm noticing on the prices of the additional veggies is that washington green grocer are much less expensive than arganica. Shitakes are $8 lb at the former and $14.45 at the latter! I also like the wgg blog. Lisa the wife is a chef and has a wonderful eye for a great recipe.

                                                  1. re: pegmo
                                                    r
                                                    Raids Feb 16, 2011 05:43 AM

                                                    Do you put out a cooler for your egg/meat deliveries, or are you just sure to be home when the delivery shows up?

                                                    1. re: Raids
                                                      p
                                                      pegmo Feb 16, 2011 04:31 PM

                                                      I will when it's warmer out, I am lucky to have a 6 minute commute and a household where there is often someone at home.

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