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Please tell me if you have experience with a CSA?

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smilingal May 2, 2011 11:42 AM

I have heard banter about this on here but don't know much about people's satisfactions - there is a new one starting in my area and I am hoping to learn more from here to decide if it is a right decision to join. thx!

  1. c
    CathleenH May 2, 2011 12:48 PM

    It depends on the particular CSA and on your lifestyle.

    I joined a CSA in New York years ago, enticed by their promise of home delivery. Unfortunately, they seemed to be winding down their half-hearted operation. Each week, I got a small grocery bag filled with odds and ends -- a few carrots, a turnip, a tiny bundle of spinach. I generally couldn't even make a side dish our of any one item because of the small quantities.

    My experience with a Chicago-area CSA has been fantastic. They deliver huge boxes of high-quality vegetables. The price per pound is a fraction of what I'd pay at the grocery store or farmer's market. The only trick is keeping up with the supply. I have to be disciplined about cooking vegetables 5-6 nights a week in order to avoid waste.

    If your CSA is just starting, there may be a risk of low yields for the first year. Is that o.k. with you? Are they asking members to contribute start-up labor? If so, does that work for you? (My sister in law is finding that CSA volunteer work has been a good way to meet people.)

    If your CSA does come through with a big harvest, will you be able to handle it? Are you already in the habit of cooking at home? Will you enjoy the challenge of dealing with a surprise assortment of vegetables each week, or will it frustrate you?

    All things to consider before joining.

    2 Replies
    1. re: CathleenH
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      smilingal May 2, 2011 01:05 PM

      thanks Cathleen! - yes, they are requesting a 14hour commitment during the season - not terrible I don't think, but not sure of what that really entails - also there are two pick-up days - not home delivery - I thought about the prospect of splitting the share with a friend so that the product and cost would be shared (cost is $500 + $35 to join) - is that appropriate?

      1. re: smilingal
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        CathleenH May 2, 2011 01:48 PM

        Shares at my CSA are something like $550-$650 depending on whether you sign up early or not. This is for a 20 week share with a pick up site. Given how much they send, it's actually a good deal.

        I paid a lot less for the first CSA, and I guess I got what I paid for.

    2. e
      electricfish May 2, 2011 01:10 PM

      We belonged to one 2 summers ago. I was not satisfied. The return on investment was very poor. We were promised enough for 4 people and rarely received enough for 2. I know "stuff" happens, but it was a perfectly normal growing season and the harvest shouldn't have been that poor week in and week out (in volume, variety and quality). We found out too late that the farmers everyone raved about had left the farm to start their own CSA operation elsewhere. The new people were not up to the job and/or they didn't get access to the farm until planting season was well underway (we never got a straight story on what the problem was). They couldn't even keep the wasps cleared out of the childrens garden.

      If I were to consider a CSA again, I'd do a lot more research and I'd be very hesitant to join a brand new one. Unless you can afford to potentially waste the money, you'd do better shopping farmer's markets. With a CSA you're (sometimes literally) putting all your eggs in one basket.

      ETA: Our agreement was $750 for an approximate 4-person share, no labor commitment, but many of the crops were pick your own.

      5 Replies
      1. re: electricfish
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        smilingal May 2, 2011 01:24 PM

        thanks EF! - I am thinking that I will let this year pass and see how their first year goes and reconsider it next year.

        1. re: electricfish
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          LauraGrace May 3, 2011 06:37 PM

          $750!?! Highway robbery!

          Ours around here (KY) run $400-$450 and guarantee produce from mid-April to mid-October and often have several more weeks depending on weather -- it's normal for them to go well into November with winter squash and greens. I once picked up a friend's CSA in early August and came home with four grocery bags stuffed full of produce. It was unbelievable. I know for a fact that they'd paid less than $400 for their whole season. I agree that you need to do your research. I wouldn't go with a first-timer unless I knew them personally.

          1. re: LauraGrace
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            soupkitten May 4, 2011 09:14 AM

            "highway robbbery"

            whoa nellie. op is in ny, you are in kentucky. not only is climate/growing season a factor in the price of a csa, but also the local economy and what the csa offers. areas with more expensive farmland/more urban areas will tend to run a bit pricier-- it's just the farmer's overhead, no "robbery" or cheating of customers whatsoever. some csas are very basic garden veg and others will include fruit and specialty produce that is very expensive in the market. csa members will pay more for microgreens, tree fruit, berries and heritage vegetables. they will pay more for certified organic produce than non. other csas can give out buckets of potatoes and zucchini, with less variety, for less $. the key is to find a csa that offers a good match/quantity with what the customer wants, but i wouldn't assume the farmer is trying to rip people off.

            where i do agree w LauraGrace's post is that i wouldn't go with a first timer, either, unless it was someone i knew personally and wanted to support. the first few seasons of a csa can be very rocky and result in poor return on investment and/or poor variety of produce-- it's a tough learning curve for the farmer. if i was the op i'd ask around locally and get personal recs for established csas-- and i would be more concerned personally with quality and variety rather than price. the nice thing about established csa farmers is that you can often arrange for extras like a 50# case of pickling cucumbers or a few jars of the farm's homemade jam or fresh cheese, or whatever, and it's no big deal.

            1. re: soupkitten
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              LauraGrace May 4, 2011 09:44 AM

              Hey, sorry to have caused alarm, soupkitten! I should have put a winkey-face after "highway robbery" -- I do think $750 is pretty outrageous, even taking other factors into account, but it's just an expression for "expensive" where I grew up, without a necessary implication of ill will.

              :-)

              1. re: LauraGrace
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                soupkitten May 4, 2011 10:26 AM

                oh, cool then, thanks for that response, we're much more on the same page than i thought! of course price is a factor, but it's hard to tell what's too expensive when we don't know what the op would be getting. there are produce csas in my area that also offer milk, cheese, and eggs and meat. . . the csa members pay more but get a great value on these higher priced foods, too.

                the op should look at the offerings of a csa before deciding what a good value is-- i'd personally *way* rather pay more for a csa that offered asparagus and berries than less for one with bushels of kohlrabi and gigantic watermelons that i may not be able to use. again, an established csa will often have month-to-month lists of what was available in other seasons, so the op could compare the value of the box to what the same produce would cost in the local market. a first season csa will be guessing a bit, they will have some misfires, they may do their best to pull off a new veg crop that winds up being a disappointment. only the op can decide what is a good value for her/his area's market price, and what is an acceptable risk.

                now that i'm looking back i can see the op is considering paying around $500 for full share, split between 2 households, and the $750 was another poster, who didn't like their csa! doh! that's my mistake, but i think $250 is a much more acceptable risk for a few-4-5 months of great produce, for the op-- my opinion only! :)

        2. meatn3 May 2, 2011 06:58 PM

          I've had good experiences with established CSA's. My area has a number of different ones. They vary in price, length of season, pick-up spots, etc.

          I did a bit of research and went with one that gives you a few days heads up as to what to expect. I liked having a little time to think about recipes and gather other ingredients. My CSA was also easy to work with if you went out of town or if there were items you didn't care for. You could also increase your order on occasion - nice if company was coming.

          I stopped subscribing when work made it very difficult to get to the other side of town for the pick-up.

          1. LNG212 May 3, 2011 05:31 AM

            I adored our CSA when we did it (UWS in Manhattan). But it just turned out to be way way too much food for 2 people. And that farmer didn't do 1/2 shares, which I would gladly have jumped at.

            Several people I know also did "trials" of a CSA before they decided. You should ask if this farmer is willing to do that. My friends did 1-week periods the growing season prior, just to see how it worked and how much food they got and all that. If you are really interested in this farmer, ask if they'll let you sign up for just a 1-week (or whatever) trial for this year. And then you can go in full next year if you are satisfied.

            But I do agree with what others have posted that if this is the farmer's first time doing a CSA, you might want to give them time before joining up. They'll probably have kinks and logistics and all that that will be new to them. (Oh, and this is kind of late to be signing up, at least for my area. The sign ups for this growing season were way back over the winter and most CSAs are full.)

            1. tcamp May 3, 2011 05:42 AM

              I love love love my CSA. I am happy with the size and variety of the food shares but more importantly, I love my farmer and I'm happy that I can support him and his family so that they can continue the important work of growing delicious, organic, food so close to the DC area. I guess the relationship is almost as important as the food itself. As a shareholder, I SHARE the risk associated with farming - bad year, fewer items; catastrophic weather, may kill or delay a certain crop. My farmer sells at my local FM so I see him each week, know his kids, ask how things are growing, and have visited the farm to see things in action.

              A few things to consider before joining, however: Who are you buying from, exactly? Can you talk to the farmer, visit the farm? What do they typically grow and are those things you eat or will try? Do you have a backup plan for vacation weeks or when you can't use up your share?

              Some weeks, I allow friends to get my share and sometimes I distribute items right away to friends so abundant items don't go to waste. We have a local food bank that takes fresh produce and I've gifted them with kale and butternut squash on occasion.

              Prior to this farm share, I belonged to two others. One moved its distro point to an inconvenient place. The second stopped its farm share program so it could devote more of their crop to the FM. I still buy from the second ones as they have some unique items I *must* buy - shishito peppers and french melons, to name just two.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tcamp
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                superkatie May 7, 2011 09:02 AM

                I am in the DC area as well and have yet to try an CSA - overwhelmed by the options, I suppose. Can I ask which one you belong to??

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                smilingal May 3, 2011 05:37 PM

                thank you all so much for your helpful, informative and interesting information. I know that I would enjoy being a part of something like this, and becoming more involved and aware of the farm-table process. The cut-off for this new CSA was indeed back in Feb but they say that they have some more shares available - possibly because they are new and others are hesitant as well. I am not aware of any other CSA's in our area so this is totally new to me. I think I will stop by and try to meet them when this gets underway and perhaps, as was suggested, I will see if i can have a week's trial run. I did have a friend who said she'd commit to share a share - as we both have only two in our households.

                1 Reply
                1. re: smilingal
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                  Chowrin May 3, 2011 05:42 PM

                  if they're reputable, and might have a poor harvest, they're probably also the type to give something of a refund... or give "bonuses" next yr.
                  I heart my CSA. They're one of a kind!

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                  oddcouple1 May 3, 2011 05:57 PM

                  I was in a fish CSA last summer. It was weekly, you could buy a half or full share. I got ~2 lb of off the boat fresh fish, whatever was caught that day. We had haddock, sole, cod, pollack, BIG fillets. If there was an extra big catch, they would have additional fish to sell at the pickup point, and a few times they had scallops and lobster as well. The prices was the same if not better than the supermarket, and the fact that it came out of the ocean that day made all the difference. You could go down to the docks when they pulled in also. LOVED the experience, may do it again (dates are tough because we will be out of town a few weeks).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: oddcouple1
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                    somervilleoldtimer May 3, 2011 06:00 PM

                    That's so cool! Where are you that this could happen?

                    1. re: somervilleoldtimer
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                      oddcouple1 May 3, 2011 06:18 PM

                      I am in the seacoast area of NH, right around 15 miles from where this company docks. Supporting the local small fisheries here is is a HUGE effort, and it is the least I can do, and you just can't beat the product!
                      http://www.eastmansfish.com/content/7133

                  2. twyst May 3, 2011 06:01 PM

                    My CSA is awesome. You have a choice every week of paying $30 for a half bushel of random veggies or you can volunteer for 4 hours and receive a free share for the week. The produce we receive is far better than anything we can get in the store.

                    1. j
                      jeanmarieok May 4, 2011 12:09 AM

                      My CSA works on a debit system. I paid $500 for a $600 credit at their markets. They have 3 different markets. Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, each in a different part of town. It's not too hard for me to hit two of the three markets, if I want to. I also have options to volunteer, either at the market, or at the farm, for additional credit towards their goods. I don't get a box, I just 'shop' their offerings, and they debit my account. They have some items reserved for just CSA members (low yield items usually), and a large selection of items available to all. Works great for me, and we have been really happy with the quality.

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                        arp29 May 4, 2011 08:48 AM

                        I've done a CSA for the past 3 summers and have really enjoyed the experience. Our farm asks you to select either a Wednesday or Saturday pick-up at their stall at the farmer's market. When you get there you sign your name to verify that you've gotten your share and take your box. The cost for a HUGE box of produce every week from June-October is $450. You can get a slightly reduced fee if you do some work on the farm. You are also welcome to stop by just to visit, but we have not done so.
                        The first year we did the CSA we realized that it was way too much food for just my husband and I, so in subsequent years we have split the share with family.
                        The amount of organic, farm-fresh produce we get for the money has made the pretty sizable upfront investment well worth it. The only "downside" is that some weeks it didn't include a seasonal ingredient that I wanted to cook with that week. I inevitably wind up shopping at other stands in addition to my share! (The produce in upstate NY is only really good for a short amount of time, I feel like I have to take advantage:-)

                        1. m
                          mpjmph May 4, 2011 11:14 AM

                          I bought a half share two years ago. I'm in the southeast, so the growing season is long. I got a box of produce every week from late April through mid-August. The half share was the right amount for my household of one, with occasional processing a freezing required when I just couldn't use it all (i.e. eat the beets or turnips right away, blanch and freeze the greens). They were a little heavy handed with onions, but otherwise the variety and portions were great, include 4 glorious weeks with strawberries.

                          All that said, I decided not to do it again. I'm single and try to keep a tight budget, so I put a lot of time/effort into planning meals. I also prefer to do my primary grocery shop on the weekend and spend a lot of time on Sundays do prep and cook for the week. All of the CSA's in my area have mid-week pickups, so I found myself scrambling to use things, and ultimately spent more money as I wasn't able to match the CSA contents for the week with sale ads and a meal plan. I'm much happier going to the farmer's market and buying what I want/need based on my plans for the week ahead.

                          1. c
                            cocktailhour May 4, 2011 05:26 PM

                            We belonged to the same CSA for about 8 years and were very happy with. It was organized through a farmers market, so we got produce from a number of different farmers. If I were to do it again, the CSAs that allow you to swap out some of the offerings each week would be nice. I don't think you join a CSA to save money. You join to support local farmers and to eat what is fresh and local. You have to be flexible and willing to eat different things. I bought a couple good cookbooks that helped me use all the produce!

                            1. m
                              magiesmom May 5, 2011 05:27 AM

                              I have belonged to a couple of different csa's and really love the concept. but they vary tremendously and I would not join one with no track record. I like the kind where one has some choice of veggies, not a pre packed box. In a bad year there will be no refund, the idea is that shareholders share the risks and bonuses of farming.

                              1. jboughrum May 6, 2011 01:05 AM

                                Oh my goodness. I haven't read everyone elses responses, so I might be re-preaching to you....but...I think it's one of the best things that has ever happened to me. When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived with 5 other people, we joined a CSA and had veggies every week. It was a TON of food, more than 6 of us could manage. When I moved out to LA, I did my research and found a CSA and am so happy I have. I get produce every other week and it's plenty of food for my boyfriend and I. It does make you cook....it forces you into the kitchen, which for me, is wonderful. I love it and am enjoying experimenting with everything that we get. If it's a weekly share, my suggestion is to get other people on board with you and share it....and maybe if it's bi-weekly too. I also have decided to volunteer with my CSA and it is such an amazing experience, being so hands on with the food that other like-minded individuals are eating on a weekly basis. And, most of the people I have met are pretty cool. I say go for it. !!

                                1. DuchessNukem May 6, 2011 02:53 AM

                                  Ah. I really hesitated to respond. I love the idea of CSAs, and I don't want you to be turned off.

                                  We did a share here in TX, spring 2009. Bad weather, sadly, and I think their first year as a CSA. About $30 a week, 35 mile drive each way, and a half-empty, echoing box each week. What little we got was always tasty organic produce (all the greens you could saute). I understood and accepted the risk factor but I never heard anything but "oh gosh, too bad, bad weather!", never an acknowledgment of the poor output. The folks involved -- they really were so nice, I felt so bad for them.

                                  But I felt bad for us too. I calculated the approx cost of goods compared to supermarket organics, and even on the good weeks, output ran below the box cost (some weeks at $18-20 value). If I took $30/week and just shopped, I'd have bought a larger, broader, more menu-approp selection. (And no Malabar spinach!) And no long inconvenient drive.

                                  I'd try it again with a different farm. Sadly, my husband felt burned and screwed and is heck-to-the-noes on a repeat. :(

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: DuchessNukem
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                                    reinadetostones May 7, 2011 08:10 AM

                                    I have been hesitating to respond as well. I had a similar experience. I love the whole concept, I loved most of the veggies I got, but two things killed it - and I don't think they apply just to that particular farm. 1) "all the greens you could sautee" for me often translated into "all the peppers you could...." or "all the summer squash...." and, unfortunately for my family, "all the okra...." I found myself blanching and freezing, canning and pickling. I have very little interest in the art of preserving....except for preserving my money! I love the idea of eating in season, but having an abundance in one season leads to preserving and eating out of season.

                                    I much prefer a farmers market or farm stand where I can choose the items and amounts that work for me. In fact, I patronize the stands of the farm that I did my CSA with - still supporting local, seasonal, organic produce and the charming farmers who raise it, but without the major upfront investment and loss of time having to preserve that investment!

                                    1. re: reinadetostones
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                                      LauraGrace May 7, 2011 10:29 PM

                                      Preserving and eating out of season... you say that like it's a bad thing, instead of what every generation of humans has done from the first day someone figured out that things like salt and smoke made food last longer. This is a strange complaint to me: "I had so much extra food that I had to preserve it, so then I had to enjoy that deliciousness long past when I could find it in the garden, which saved me money, not just in season but after the last crop had been turned under. Terrible!" :-\

                                      1. re: LauraGrace
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                                        reinadetostones May 20, 2011 09:16 PM

                                        Sorry to return to this so late, but yes. I don't have a garden, I have a career. Kudos to those who do what every generation of women have done forever. I seem strange to you - well, I don't cure my own prosciutto either. I don't have a garden, I don't want a garden, and I am confident in my rejection of salting, smoking, curing and preserving myself. I am also confident in the more self-satisfying ways I choose to spend my time. The times, they are a-changing.

                                  2. s
                                    schindlr May 6, 2011 04:12 AM

                                    I'm currently a member of the Green Cay Farms CSA here in the West Palm Beach area. I think it's a fair value for the product received. It's probably more expensive than buying at the grocery, but the quality is better and the variety is interesting. Problem for me is that it's too much food, so I won't be doing it again next year, but for a family, I think it's fabulous.

                                    1. s
                                      sshaffer May 6, 2011 04:34 AM

                                      i've been a member at two diffferent CSAs and had both good and bad experiences within each one. The first CSA I joined about 12 years ago, I was very happy with for about 3 years. I received a nice, seasonal variety of produce each week. The pick your own items were great, including flowers during the growing season. Then the farmer went through a divorce and the entire operation suffered. I really don't know the entire story, but he didn't seem to care about planning, planting or weeding anymore. Needless to say, the CSA folded mid-season amongst complaining members. The second CSA had great produce as well, but required work hours from it's members. An interesting twist since many spent the entire time on their cell phones! I found the produce good, but it seemed like the grounds could have been better maintained for the pick your own areas. Instead there was a huge focus on "childrens" functions at the farm. That's okay if you have kids, but I signed up for produce. More business, less play. The funny thing is, children were rarely at the farm. It was dusty, dirty and smelly...like a farm!

                                      1. b
                                        belovedofgd May 6, 2011 04:59 AM

                                        We joined our CSA in their first year to help them get going! It was fine and we also have the option to go work for a discount on the box. Usually we eat everything in the box, but if we don't like a particular thing, I gift a neighbor or see if I can trade with another member. We also have 2 pickup spots and occasionally there are extras of something that is abundant that week and we are welcome to take more. I really like the concept of helping the farmers and ensuring this kind of thing can continue! Go for it!!

                                        1. i
                                          inkwench May 6, 2011 05:28 AM

                                          I love my CSA!

                                          I get an email every Tuesday alerting me what they will have this week.

                                          I reply with a list of what I want and where I'll pick it up. If I go over (I mostly don't) I pay the rest out of pocket.

                                          Result--lots of fresh veggies, and none I don't want!

                                          1. h
                                            herefornow May 6, 2011 06:15 AM

                                            I have been counting the weeks til my CSA pick-up since January, I can't say enough great things about the farm we belong to (Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, MA). We live in an area where there are many many amazing CSA farms, and a big chunk of the population participates. With ours, we get a weekly email outlining what will be available, along with tips and recipes. We go to the farm and pick-up our shares from a room filled with bins of fruit and vegetables. The farm also supplies scissors and containers for a You-pick option, where shareholders can get herbs, berries, tomatoes and flowers from the fields. It's a terrific way to spend an early summer evening with kids. At the end of the season (November), they offer a storage crop option- a one-time pick-up of 100 lbs. of carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets, onions, etc to get you through the winter. It costs about $525 for a weekly share which starts the first week in June and ends the last week in Oct (with so much food that we split with another family) and then $100 for the winter share. Love my CSA farm! (only 3 more weeks til it starts!)

                                            1. d
                                              debbypo May 6, 2011 06:57 AM

                                              I have shopped at Farmer's Markets since they first opened in Chicago about 25 years ago. A couple of years ago I tried Scotch Farms (?) and was quite unhappy. Last year I did Angelic Organics. It was very good... quality and quantity wise. But, I was not into Kale and winter squash as much as I got.
                                              I also really missed going to the Farmer's Markets, talking to the people and picking the produce myself. I missed seeing what looked so good that I couldn't resist it a particular week.

                                              1. rose water May 6, 2011 07:40 AM

                                                love love love being part of a CSA. here's my ode to my old CSA, from my first year doing it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/430340

                                                to summarize, the benefits:
                                                1. exquisite, fresh, local, seasonal produce
                                                2. learning how to deal with random vegetables.
                                                3. learning how to deal with more chard than you've ever encountered in your life
                                                4. the obligation to get through a ton of vegetables in a week = eating at home, eating healthily, creatively and deliciously

                                                In our first two years, we split our shares with friends, and each of us picked up every other week. It was a great way to ease into CSA-ery.

                                                We've joined a CSA closer to home this year, and i'm anxious to have left such a wonderful farm, and so excited for our shares to begin (now with weekly eggs and dairy too!).

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: rose water
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                                                  llietzke May 6, 2011 09:44 PM

                                                  I love being a part of a CSA. It is called Live Earth Farm, and it is located in Watsonville, just south of San Jose. It is not cheap, but we do get produce for 11 months out of the year. The farm takes March off. For winter shares it is $300 for 30 weeks, and for the rest of the year it is $729 for 33 weeks. This is for the medium-sized share, which is more than enough for my husband and I. I would recommend doing your research, because some CSA's are better than others. While we don't get to pick what is in our shares each week, the variety is great. This week for example we got 13 items, from Napa cabbage, to meyer lemons, to strawberries and apples. This particular CSA has 3 sizes, and will also help you find someone to split a share with. They are constantly having events at the farm, and welcome members to come and visit. Their farming methods are organic, and natural. They use all kinds of methods to practice natural, sustanable farming, from using cover crops to beneficial insects. They also have chickens, sheep and goats. They also work with other organic local producers of honey, bread, granola, coffee, jellies, and pickles, and sell them to be picked up with the weekly shares.

                                                  It takes some getting used to, but I look at our weekly shares and a culinary challenge. Not having a choice of what gets delivered, has forced me to cook with things that I normally would not cook with. I have even had to learn how to cook certain vegetables, that I had no clue what they were! It does take some discipline to cook often to use of your share before the next week. My CSA has the option of donating your share when you go on vacation, and are unable to pick up your share. My husband and I are proud to be supporting a local farmer, and enjoy the health benefits of organic produce.

                                                  1. re: llietzke
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                                                    Isolda May 7, 2011 07:57 AM

                                                    Your last paragraph sums up everything I love about CSAs. The no-waste philosophy is a challenge to honor, but what a fun challenge! Some of the most delicious foods I have ever cooked came about as a result of having to use abundant veggies and fruits very creatively. I still dream about the corn, tomato and basil pie with a whole wheat biscuit crust that I made a zillion times last summer.

                                                  2. re: rose water
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                                                    Isolda May 7, 2011 07:59 AM

                                                    Buckets of chard===tourte aux blettes (sweet chard pie)
                                                    Delicious for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert

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                                                    Isolda May 7, 2011 07:52 AM

                                                    I've had experience with two different CSAs. The first was called Heaven's Harvest and they were located in South Braintree, MA, but delivered our boxes to someone's garage in town, where we'd pick them up. The first year was okay, way too many leafy greens and not too much else, but the quality was good, so we signed on for a second year. The second year was dreadful. We had a very bad rainy season, and everything was of really poor, yellow, moth-eaten, drab quality. I'd like to say it wasn't their fault, but we supplemented our produce by buying from other local organic farms and their stuff was fine. Finally, last year, we signed up at Silverwood Farm in Sherborn, Mass, where we live. Their stuff was amazing, some of the most beautiful produce I've ever seen. They had a huge variety (many CSAs overproduce leafy greens because they are easy to grow, but ours also had potatoes, cukes, every kind of squash you could imagine, eggplant, kohlrabi, radishes, corn, fabulous tomatoes, melons etc.) and everything was organic. You could really taste the difference. A share is $750 a season, including some PYO, which I don't love, but am willing to do. I appreciate the fact that if I don't want more dill, I can leave it in the field. I also love having to eat what's available seasonally, as it makes me more creative.

                                                    The moral of my convoluted tale is that it totally depends on the CSA. Ask actual customers of the one you are thinking of joining. Things to consider are: can you split a share, how long the season is, how convenient is it, do you have a choice (ours will have bins that say "Pick four of six items," for example), do you like what they are growing (people who don't love tomatoes won't want to join ours, for example.)

                                                    As far as cost goes, I'd say it's a wash between the CSA and buying organic produce at the market, but others may have a different experience.

                                                    Oh, yeah, better start looking for a great gumbo z'herbes recipe--no matter which CSA you join, you will need it!

                                                    1. w
                                                      writergeek313 May 7, 2011 08:44 AM

                                                      This will be my first summer doing a CSA. Mine runs from June to mid-November at about $22 a week. What made me decide to join the one I did rather than one of the others in the area is a few things. First, I can go to the farm and choose what I want instead of having them box it up for me. There's a more expensive delivery option where it's pre-packed, but I don't mind the drive out there to have some say in what I get. Second, it's a collective made up of three farms, and all three have different unlimited U-pick crops in addition to the weekly share. Between the three, they grow just about everything I'd want, except for fruit. They say that for the share you should just take what you're going to use in that week, but for the U-pick crops, you can freeze/can/whatever. Considering I'm single, though, I have a feeling there may be weeks when I have to cook and freeze some of the weekly share, too. I'm also a little worried about how my feelings about the CSA might change when I go back to teaching and have less time from meal prep and planning. The nice thing about mine is that I can do a Wednesday or Saturday pickup, which might make things a little easier.

                                                      I know that $22 won't end up being my whole produce budget for the week, but it seems like a real deal for local organic veggies, especially with the U-pick crops. I love cooking with fresh herbs but have had bad luck trying to grow them, so I'm glad I can just go take what I think I'll need instead of having to buy big bunches at the grocery store. I buy a lot of produce every week, especially in the summer, when meals are often salads and snacks are usually fruits or veggies. My CSA has a free monthly cooking class, too, which I'm hoping will help me figure out how to use some of the veggies I don't buy on a regular basis.

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