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Need Help with Choosing a CSA for Summer '12

I have finally convinced the BF to try out a CSA this summer and I need help choosing between a few. After reading the postmortem thread for last summer I have whittled my list down to three:

Red Fire Farm- Easiest pick up
Waltham Fields- Like the PYO
Stillmans- Like that they offer two package options.

We are two adults living and working in Cambridge. Neither of us are vegetarian, but we are trying to eat more veggies (And enjoy eating them). My main concerns are price, quantity and variety of crops, and ease of pick up.

Any suggestions as to which I should sign up with?

Thanks

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  1. I've done Stillmans and Waltham in the past (still do Waltham). Waltham is exponentially better - in variety, quality, and definitely quantity. Unfortunately, spots at Waltham don't open very often and they have a waiting list in the hundreds.

    If Waltham wasn't an option for me, I think I would want to try something other than Stillmans, which I really wasn't impressed with.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DoubleMan

      Thanks for giving a comparison between Stillman and Waltham. Stillman only appealed to me because of the small share (and some favorable reviews). Since it will be our first time w/a CSA I'm a little nervous that we won't be able to eat it all. But unlike Red Fire they don't have a convienent pick up, and unlike Waltam they don't have PYO. There are still shares available @ Waltham for this summer.

    2. I have been a Waltham Fields CSA subscriber for 7 years or so, so that speaks for itself. In terms of price, when I first joined, the cost of a share was $525/season for ~20 weeks or roughly $26/wk, which is what I was buying on average per week at Russo's. Add in the taste benefits and it was very much justified.

      The cost of the CSA has gone up reasonably over the 7 years - it is now $625/season which works out to roughly $31/week, so still pretty reasonable.

      The variety has gotten better over the years, although the early season crops are naturally slanted toward greens and root veggies. Summer and fall make up for it. They have built up a raspberry patch that is pretty reliable for months, along with a brief burst of strawberries. They also have partnerships with other farms for in season corn, squash, etc. All of this is subject to the vagaries of the weather, but for example, when the tomato crop failed in the Northeast due to the fungus two years ago, they worked really hard to get some tomatoes, but also to make up for them with other crops.

      You get to manage what you want each week a bit - they usually have say 12 items for pick-up and you get to pick 9. That way, if you have not gotten through all your kale from the week before, you can get some onions instead. The pick-your-own is also great.

      The WF CSA is a vital part of our Saturday a.m. routine and it starts from your neck of the woods - we head out early, grab a coffee and a fancy pastry at Sofra, head over to the farm, really enjoy walking the fields and picking peas, beans, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, etc., then swing by Russo's if we want to supplement with fruit, milk, etc., hit the Armenian markets on Mt. Auburn and the Stop and Shop in Watertown for big box goods, and head home.

      Up until this year, we were two non-veg adults and we had to work pretty hard to get through everything each week. It will require a fair amount of cooking at home. If it gets overwhelming, you can split a share with someone too.

      Anyway, my two cents. I don't think you can go wrong either way.
      P.s. - can you tell I am excited for the coming growing season?

      11 Replies
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        Thanks for such a detailed review. The price does seem reasonable compared to what I spend at Russo's each week. My concern with Waltham is that according to the website they don't plan to have Sat. pick ups (only Tues and Thurs) this season so it's not as convienent as Red Fire. However, a stop at Sofra on the way to PYO does sound like a very enticing way to spend a Sat morning.

        1. re: viperlush

          I know that Farmer Dave's was not in your final 3 choices, but I have done it for the past few years and I love it. I paid $590 for the 2012 season for both a fruit share (13 weeks) and a veggie share (20 weeks) which is very reasonable I think. I absolutely love the CSA--tons of variety, great staff, both a box and a choice option, and always free extras as well as a swap box if you don't like a certain item. I highly recommend it. Good luck with your CSA--it has definitely changed the way I cook, made me eat more veggies, and last year I even harvested garlic out on the farm for the first time in my life! I love supporting a local farmer and the quality is amazing.

          1. re: chicken pot pie

            Do they have a veggie and fruit option or do you have to purchase both individually?

            1. re: chicken pot pie

              I buy from Farmer Dave's at the Beverly Farmers Market occasionally and have enjoyed their stuff. Not a big issue for me, but just in case this is a priority for the OP in making choices, they are Integrated Pest Management, not organic.

              1. re: fesenjan

                Nah, organic is a bonus but not important to us.

            2. re: viperlush

              Viperlush, my looking at the website has Saturday as a pick-up time - it is also the most popular pick-up day by far. Not sure where you were seeing that info.

              http://communityfarms.org/index.php/csa

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I saw that you had mentioned that you did a Sat pick up, but when I checked the website last week it said only the Tues and Thurs. So I emailed them on Friday and asked if they would be having a weekend pick up this summer and the response was "right now we only have Tuesday and Thursday pickups."

                1. re: viperlush

                  I think I might know what's going on - just a guess, but wonder if the remaining shares being sold are being asked to pick-up exclusively on a weeknight to get some balance in the harvest/pickup schedule.

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    That's probably it. It does say that for new shareholders its Tues and Thurs. It's a shame, but understandable.

                    1. re: viperlush

                      Yes, you guys are right. I think with the long waiting list they wanted to be able to open it up to more people but the Saturday pickups are crazy busy, way more than the other two days. This will be our 7th summer and we love it, but I wouldn't want to do it either if I could only do Tues/Thurs.

          2. While I have no comparison to make with other CSAs, we've done Stillman's for 5 consecutive years. If that is not a ringing endorsement, don't know what is.
            Produce is great, half share option was perfect until our family grew to justify the full and the Stillman family are all lovely. We're signing up with them again this year -

            1. I have been a member of the Heirloom Harvest CSA for the past 4-5 seasons. They are great, with wonderful variety, quantity and quality. We are a family of 3 vegetarians, and a 1/2 share is plenty for us! John, the CSA farmer, also donates alot of produce to inner cities (worcester mainly). They are in Westborough, but have a Cambridge pickup coop that is currently looking for members. You can get more info at:
              http://www.heirloomharvestcsa.com/

              2 Replies
              1. re: Science Chick

                Thanks for the suggestion, but I don't know if it would work for us. I don't think that we would be able to participate fully in the co-op (drive out to pick up crops or host a pick up location). Of course when the BF worked out in Hopkinton this would have been perfect.

                1. re: viperlush

                  I was in a co-op in Brookline one year, and I only had to do a pickup once in the whole season. Not too bad. Some pickups are on weekends as well, depending on the day they choose.

              2. I'm still a huge fan of First Light Farm CSA: Farmer Mike's passion shows through in his immaculate gardens and selection.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pastrytroll

                  Thanks for the suggestions, but we really need a CSA with a pick up in Cambridge (or as near as possible).