I am semi-frantically trying to settle on a CSA for this year while I still have time. I did a search, but most of the advice I found seems to be a couple of years old. I see mentions of Full Belly Farm and Two Small Farms (now split into Mariquita Farm and High Ground Organics). What other CSA programs have you used? I've been using Capay Valley Growers for about a month. This was an easy, flexible decision since they allow you to pay per week and cancel anytime. They also give you the option to put weeks on hold, meaning you don't pick up a box and you aren't charged for the week. I've been pleased with the selection, and they seem able to offer a large variety since they work with about 15 farms (including Full Belly Farm, which has gotten praise on this board). Because there's no commitment, I am trying to decide whether to stick with what I have or switch gears and make a commitment to another program.
Has anyone else had any experience with Capay Valley growers? What are your thoughts about working with a collaboration of farms rather than a single farm?
I'm a Two Small Farms subscriber. I love knowing that I can visit the farms and actually see what's growing...like I really feel like I'm part of the co-op. Their variety is also very unique, it's like getting a surprise every week. We got veggies (and sometimes fruit) that we've never even seen in the markets... rapini, bugs bunny carrots =) , beautiful salad greens, the sweetest varieties of melons, mushrooms, and during the summer, practically fresh strawberries every week. The weekly box is so huge that there's enough veggies for 3 people that love veggies.
We've been subscribers to Two Small Farms CSA for two years now, and just started our third subscription for this year. Very happy with it - for the most part excellent quality veggies, nice variability, and the dropoff is about 150 yards from my house, so I can't beat the convenience. My only minor nit with them is that last year they sent lots of strawberries, and they were mostly the generic supermarket type - big and red on the outside, white and crunchy on the inside. But it's getting harder and harder to find good heirloom strawberries, so they're probably doing the best they can.
I've used Farm Fresh to You/Capay Organic on and off for the past few years. While convenient, there have been a few times when the quality has been sub-par, or the handling was a bit rough, resulting in unusable produce. However, if I spoke up, they were often willing to give me a credit.
I do like that they deliver to your door, can put weeks on hold and customize your box.
We've been using Terra Firma Farms for over a year now. We like it, but don't love it. The quality suffers from time to time, but such is life with a true CSA as opposed to a wholesaler. I like having the connection to the farm, getting all organic and lots of heirloom products. The value is pretty good, but the diversity and sometimes the amount of things is lacking (What am I supposed to do with two heads of baby bok choy?). In the end I think I would not use a CSA if it weren't for the fact that I think it's the right thing to do.
Terra Firma Farm
Winters, CA, USA, Winters, CA
No need to settle if you're not sure. Nearly all the CSAs allow trial periods. Try a couple out and see what you like.
I've also been a Two Small Farms subscriber for a few years and just switched back to Mariquita's mystery boxes, which have slightly more obscure veggies (less lettuce, more spigarello).
I will miss the Higher Ground strawberries, which are ordinarily exceptional. Last summer was very hard, as sfbing notes.
Thanks for all your input! I think I'm going to stick with Capay Valley for this year. I've been reading up on the farms that participate, many of which are small but specialize in something (such as citrus fruits or almonds), and I like the idea of supporting these "boutique" farms along with larger growers like Full Belly. Also, the flexibility to take a week (or more) off is appealing and I can pick up my box close to home.
One more question - Capay Valley Growers operates their pickup on an honor system. They drop off the boxes at the designated location, and subscribers come by during the designated time frame and pick up up the produce. Is this how all yours operate too? I'm new to the area, and my old CSA (in Virginia) had pickups at the farmers markets, which gave me a chance to talk to one of the growers each week face to face. We chatted about what was planted, what was growing, recipe ideas, our favorite veggies...really we just got to know each other a little. I am committed to particpating in a CSA in my new home, but I already miss the personal relationship I had with the folks from the farm in VA. Am I just out of luck in this area?